Music Plays Major Role in Life of GWU Grad

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Bonnie Scruggs Completes Rare GWU Feat of 200 Undergraduate Hours to Earn Degree

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—After starting to play the piano at age two, Bonnie Scruggs has majored in music her entire life. This month she marks a milestone in her music education as she graduates from Gardner-Webb University with more than 200 hours of undergraduate coursework in two majors with three concentrations.

GWU graduates normally complete 128 credit hours for a bachelor’s degree. “Probably one-tenth of one percent of students earn more than 200 undergraduate hours,” explained Stephen Sain, GWU’s associate registrar.

Scruggs will earn her bachelor’s degree in music education for the cello and piano and in music performance for the cello. “My mom and dad knew instantly that I was a music kid,” Scruggs reflected. “I knew in eighth grade, the same year we bought my first cello, that I wanted to be a music major.  I come from a musical family.”

Thinking back to her childhood, she remembers her grandmother playing the piano and the instruments that filled her family’s house. Her father Johnny served as a drum major in his high school band. Her mother Pam, who serves as associate athletics director at Gardner-Webb, plays the piano and has written songs. Earl Scruggs, the late legendary banjo musician from the nearby Flint Hill community, is her third cousin. “The instruments we had were my toys as a kid,” she recalled. “I didn’t play video games. We didn’t have TV. When we bought my first cello, dad said I had to learn how to play it and teach it.”

In the years since, Scruggs has taught cello and piano through her own studio, while taking an atypical academic course load of 22 credit hours per semester during her five years of study at GWU. She also leads youth and music programs at her church, performs and schedules other musicians for weddings, and she works with local music groups, including a recent performance with the Shelby High School Orchestra at the renowned Strathmore Music Center in Maryland.

“I do what I do in music because it’s a God-given talent,” Scruggs shared. “I play at church on Sundays, and it’s the way I worship and connect with God. It’s my ‘me’ time. It’s my spiritual time.”

The time she has spent at Gardner-Webb has offered unique opportunities to learn and grow as a musician and a person. She said she originally chose GWU because Dr. Patricia Sparti was the only college music department leader who said she could major with four concentrations, her original goal as she also wanted to study piano performance. “Gardner-Webb has also offered me opportunities to write and conduct,” she said. “And in all of my classes I’ve had the opportunity to ask questions without punishment and be recognized as a curious learner. I’m grateful for that.”

In addition to job possibilities, Scruggs is considering graduate school at Gardner-Webb. But she already knows that she will work to share her lifelong love of music with others. “Teaching is my main thing,” she revealed. “Regardless of what I do in the daytime, I know I’ll be teaching and working with kids. I know that music will play a role in my life.”

Located in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb University offers a comprehensive academic experience that introduces students to the diverse world of ideas and to the people who think them, preparing them for professional success and for productive citizenship.