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Pamela Branchini Memorial Scholarship

2 winners, $1,000 each
Application Deadline
Nov 15, 2024
Winners Announced
Dec 15, 2024
Education Level
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Field of Study:
Fine arts

Pamela Branchini was a lover of the arts and was passionate about music, visual arts, design, and decor.

Pamela had a generous spirit and was always striving to support and encourage those she worked with as well as the artists and performers she helped produced concerts and events. Pamela used her life to create beautiful events for all to enjoy and made a positive impact on everyone she met.

This scholarship seeks to honor the life of Pamela Branchini by supporting students who are pursuing degrees in the fine arts.

Any student in Nevada who is or will be pursuing a higher education program in the fine arts, such as instrumental music, vocal music, musical theatre, design, or other fine arts, may apply for this scholarship. 

To apply, tell us what collaboration means to you in your field of interest and what collaborative experiences have inspired you so far.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Need, Boldest Profile
Published May 16, 2024
Essay Topic

For Pam Branchini, involvement in music, theatre, art & decor always seemed to revolve around the relationships that were developed in the process of the preparation for concerts, performances, and events. What does collaboration in your intended field mean to you? What collaborative experiences have you had that inspired you in your field?

400–600 words

Winning Application

Tom Riggleman
Syracuse UniversityLas Vegas, NV
Tom Riggleman – Pam Branchini Memorial Scholarship Essay In January of 2018, my dear friend Heaven Akmal passed away. I met her freshman year as an anxious, shy, and lonely kid discovering his love for theatre and joining a community company. As a seasoned member of the group, all the kids not only loved, but respected Heaven. Although I admired her confidence and talent, she, along with the rest of the upperclassmen in the cast, intimidated me. I remember intense fear during those first few rehearsals, sitting alone and nervously looking down at my script for the duration of the day. It was not until a bubbly, smiling Heaven approached and invited me to sit with her friends did I feel seen in the space. She introduced me to everyone, took the time to really know me, and eventually ended up driving me to and from rehearsals. She was the defining positive force in my life, even after I myself grew into a “seasoned” member of the team. Our friendship continued to blossom, and junior year, my high school decided to put on a production of Godspell with me in the role of Jesus. It was during this process when it was announced that Heaven had died. She was a freshman in college, only 18 years old. The news seemed to physically hollow out my chest, leaving nothing but an angry and nihilistic void in its place. I begged the universe for some sort of resolution, or answer, or anything that would not only restore my life to its previous state of normalcy, but my world to a place with her in it again. Although to this day I have not received anything of that sort, there is good news. Time went by, and I, being human, do what humans do best: adapt. After graduation I decided to volunteer as a coach for MasterAct, a summer camp at my high school for 11-17 year old kids. The first day of rehearsal came, and before me was a group of hyper, deafeningly loud kids. Well, mostly loud. In the corner sat a patient and quiet 12-year-old girl looking down at her script. In her eyes I saw a young and terrified version of myself. At that moment, something changed in me. That void in my chest, filled with rain, had its storm clouds finally part. Shining now was what was underneath all along: the beautiful memory of Heaven. Her essence of unending compassion began to live through me, and for the remainder of camp, I took that girl under my wing, introducing her to everyone and ensuring her inclusion in group events. For the rest of my life, I will look back and see Heaven’s compassionate eyes and her deeply understanding smile. However, even as those concrete memories fade, I will act forward with her essence of inspiration, guidance, and positivity. Because of Heaven, I will strive to be that positive and collaborative force in the lives of young artists. Now, after graduation from college, and beyond. Thank you for reading.
Benjamin Barnes
University of Nevada-RenoHenderson, NV
My father has often told me how he didn’t think of being a musician as “going to work,” but rather how he was able “to play.” It’s a shame how many people only think of the arts as a hobby, just because our view of a career is so full of mundanity that enjoying what you do is seen as a free time activity. Collaboration in my intended field means turning coworkers into friends. There is a level of intimacy that actors share when performing together, as much as we think of acting as simply “being someone else.” Character work brings forth different aspects of people that bring forth a vulnerability that requires a judgment free zone. With all members sharing their talents and working together to put on a production, there’s no way anyone would leave a production as strangers. As we build each other up, there’s also the risk of bringing each other down, as the teamwork of a production is so crucial that one unaware person may alter the final outcome. It’s important however to acknowledge that anyone is capable of making a mistake, and rather than scolding, our focus should be on helping one another to be the strongest we can be. My most recent production has probably had me at my most socially involved. In the one before this one, I wasn’t in the social circle of the theater students, and hadn’t really developed strong friendships with the cast. Everyone still treated me nice and we had an award-winning performance, so while I wasn’t that close, collaboration was still very present. Now, as a freshman musical theater major, I find that being in with so many new faces has allowed me to be on the same social level as the others. Thanks to the upperclassmen, who insisted on us getting to spend time together outside of rehearsal, we were able to feel no shame in asking for help for songs, dances, acting choices, and even homework for other classes. This particular production was also student directed, so it was fun to get to learn from my peers, rather than adults I wasn’t adjusted to yet. As the Spring auditions are starting to come, I am very much looking forward to getting to work with old and new colleagues as we set forth on working together for a new story to tell. Looks like I’m going to be making a lot of friends out of strangers these coming years!
Lily Martin
University of Nevada-Las VegasLas Vegas, NV
As an aspiring vocal performance major, my voice means everything to me. Being involved in so many activities, like a sorority and the honors college, my voice is an important part of my leadership positions and life overall. I am a social butterfly and communicate much more than the average person. I love using my voice in positive ways like speaking at council events. Learning how to use my voice through these activities as well as sports my whole life transferred over to my musical career. I started offering my talents to other events, asking to sing the national anthem, singing at weddings, country clubs sports events, etc. Doing things alone was nice, but my sister who is currently 17 started getting just as talented as me a few of years ago. She was exceeding in performing and music theory, and we took AP music theory together in high school. Our teacher wasn't too great, and the other students were not as advanced as us. Being polar opposites, this was the one thing my sister Summer and I had in common. We studied together almost everyday. My parents noticed a notable difference in how much time we were spending together and our attitudes towards each other. The following year, she started singing with me or playing my accompaniment at almost every event. I hardly ever sang alone from then. We ended up being section leaders together in our choir, and everyone could see how strong our relationship and communication was. This easily spread out thorough our section and overall choir. People started following in our footsteps and throwing out more ideas at us since we were also both on the leadership board. We had made our choir more together and collaborative than it had been in years, and our teacher was ecstatic. My sister and I put on two events that year for our school, hosting a talent show and "Broadway Cafe" together. We put up a volunteer board, and got student involvement from all over the school, even outside of choir. It was amazing seeing the collaboration from our own choir and school when it is commonly lacked in our generation. Now that I am a freshman in college, Summer is a senior and currently the president of the choir. We still perform at outside events together and just recently sang the national anthem at a car show! I am studying vocal performance at UNLV and cannot wait to join the leadership board once I am no longer a freshman. I am hoping Summer comes to UNLV to study with me, even though she is being offered music scholarships from several other schools. In the last few years, I learned what it meant to have involvement and community in choir. I never had this relationship with my sister before we engaged in our common ground and took it outside of our home. It was amazing seeing the transformation we caused and growing our relationship to become better people and musicians.
Daniel Ruebusch
University of Nevada-RenoReno, NV
As a freshman music major at the University of Nevada, Reno, I have had opportunities to work with people who inspire me and encourage me to be better. My classmates embody an exceptional level of dedication to their craft, and being surrounded by these individuals motivates me to work harder. In addition, my professors have high expectations that require me to put in my most focused effort. Lastly, my directors and conductors have expressed through their actions that they want only the best from their ensembles, meaning that all members need to do their best every day. Together, interactions and collaborations with these individuals have improved me as a musician and as a person as well, because all of them hold me to higher standards. To me, a collaboration is best described as a group of people each contributing something to a common goal, and when successful, they create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. In the four months since I started at UNR, I have gotten to experience this much more than I ever expected, and have worked to create music that I had only dreamed about years ago. One specific collaboration that stuck with me is when I was preparing for my first wind ensemble concert this semester. It was my first concert with the group and I had no clue what to expect, but the rest of the clarinet players in the ensemble helped me to adapt quickly. They anticipated where I would face difficulty, worked to help me through my music, gave me tips about performance aspects that I had not considered, and by the end I felt confident in myself and the ensemble. Without their kindness and encouragement, I would not have been nearly as successful. Their efforts embody the spirit of collaboration because in addition to contributing to the group through their own preparation, they brought others up as well. In the future, I hope to be as helpful to others as they were to me, so that their kindness will be passed on. This is just one small example of a way that collaboration impacted me, but there are many more. Preparing any type of concert takes a team, both on the stage and around it. In my experience, sometimes the most educational and powerful experiences come from those around us, and this is why collaboration is so meaningful.
Aliyah Saldarriaga
University of Nevada-RenoReno, NV
Hailey Murray
Northern Arizona UniversityLas Vegas, NV
One of my first experiences working in an art gallery was during my senior year of high school. I had been in galleries, but it was the first time I had actually gone through the process of creating a show, inventorying the art, planning the layout, and even hosting the artist and their families on opening night. There was a rush and excitement in the air that will never be met anywhere else in my mind. This experience was only possible through my photo teacher, having been in her class from freshman to senior year I felt confident that when I had asked if I could be her student aide she’d say yes. She had been, “Yes, but, why not be a photo intern?” For most of her teaching career she has been the lead gallery curator for the Public Education Foundation (PEF), this title allowed her to have student interns. I was hesitant at first, it was a lot of responsibility going into my senior year, and I didn’t want to miss out on time with friends. Little did I know that I was going to end that year with a best friend and a plethora of knowledge from working on three different gallery shows. This took place during the 2021-2022 school year; freshly out of Covid, still wearing masks, and cautious of everything around. Myself and the two other interns weren’t sure that we would even be doing anything gallery related with the different restrictions happening throughout the state. So we started to learn and observe the ins and outs of gallery work. We volunteered to help local artists set up their shows, we helped teach our peers how to mat and mount their prints, and even set up displays of student work throughout the hallway. A few months into the year we, the interns, were told we were creating a show for the PEF, the name, the rules, and everything in between. The show was named Entangled, reflecting the connection that goes into that art that is created every day by those of us that create to live. This show engrained in my mind the amount of collaboration that goes into art. To create you first have to learn, drawing off of others' brilliance to then morph it into your own. You have to ask for help from others, whether it be input or making sure what you're hanging is level. And you have to take a step back with the people that you collaborated with to create a meaningful show and take in the moment that will be unlike anything else you’ll ever do. I am currently an Art Education major, and that feeling that was coursing through during opening night is what I want to enable students to obtain. Satisfaction with their work and acknowledgment of those who had helped them get there because there is no other feeling that could compare.
Faith Phillips
Sierra Lutheran High SchoolReno, NV
Tears of joy terrify me. I know how to comfort someone going through loss; I know how to mend or soothe wounds; I know how to deal with an argument… But tears of grief, joy, and amazement combined into one explosion of emotion? Confounding. I say this because my artwork has made people react in that way before. Many times, actually. I remember the first time it happened clearly: The woman, let’s call her Laura, was Facebook friends with my mom and had seen my work through her posts, so she messaged me to commission a painting of her dog who had just passed away. She had a sweet face (the dog) and a lot of light, curly hair that was an absolute pain to paint using watercolor, but somehow I managed— only after slaving over it for days, letting layer after layer of paint dry. Once it was ready, we set a time for her to pick it up. I was at my grandmother’s house for Friday night dinner and she dropped by. I walked outside with the precious painting carefully tucked into a padded yellow envelope and passed it into her waiting hands. As she slid the paper from the envelope, tears welled in her eyes. And she cried. She hugged me, cried some more, then began to talk about her dog. I’d never felt the way I felt at that moment before. It made me uncomfortable. Not in a bad way, but also not in a good way. Just unsettled. I knew what I was doing had been important and made a difference. It made me feel very proud of myself, my work, and its impact on Laura— But then she handed me the envelope filled with even more cash than the price I had asked for. That’s when the guilt landed a punch to my gut. I felt like a terrible person for asking Laura to pay for what essentially was a reminder of her late pet’s death. It felt like handing her fake emotions, a false gift. I should just give her this painting out of the kindness of my heart. She’d gone through enough already, so who was I to ask her to pay for it? Shouldn’t I do it because it made a difference in someone’s life? Shouldn’t I do it out of charity? Then I remember the struggle, the hours of frustration trying to get the painting absolutely perfect for her. Why? Was it for money or praise? No, no. It was for the happy sparkle in Laura’s eyes as she told me a story about the stubborn hair that would always stick out over her dog’s left eye, which I captured in my painting without realizing the significance. Art doesn’t imitate life—it becomes a part of it. My stoic friend burst into tears at the sight of his late mother brought back to life from a grainy image to a token of her beauty. A woman passing by my chalk mural has wiped teardrops from her cheeks. My painting immortalized a grandmother and a three-year old boy taken too soon on the stairway to heaven, which now hangs in their living room. My work made a positive impact on those 9 people (and counting). Yes, I was the cause of those tears, but it wasn’t wrong. Their tears were happy, and I was okay with that. It’s the collaboration of soul, compassion, and appreciation that really makes art count for something. It’s not just artists who collaborate, but those who are affected by it. You cannot have one without the other.
Trevor Woods
Coronado High SchoolHENDERSON, NV


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Nov 15, 2024. Winners will be announced on Dec 15, 2024.