California State University, Stanislaus student Rachel Grider loves music so much that she jumped at the opportunity to play the flute in a band that performs during traditional Portuguese bullfights. As a multi-talented music student at Modesto's Downey High School, she played the flute in the marching band. That Grider has been blind since birth has not stopped her from such pursuits.
Grider brought her gift for music to CSU Stanislaus this fall as a freshman student recipient of the prestigious Dale M. Schoettler Scholarship for Visually Impaired Students. The $5,500 scholarship is awarded to talented students by the CSU Foundation.
Grider has not let her lack of sight stop her from becoming an outstanding student and a highly talented singer and musician. She started playing the piano as a youngster, took up the flute as an elementary school student, and started focusing on singing in chorale groups as she headed to high school. Grider's teachers describe her as brilliant and praise her characteristics of perseverance, toughness, work ethic, and positivism as elements of her personality that make her a top student. A resident of The Village University housing, she is focusing on vocal performance as a CSU Stanislaus music student, and has ambitions to attend graduate school and eventually earn a doctorate.
"I was really excited about the full-ride scholarship, because I might not have been able to go to college without it," Grider said. "I love music because it's a way of expressing your emotions in a way that you can't do by talking. For me, it's a deeper form of communication; kind of like painting a picture."
Only the walking stick she uses to navigate the CSU Stanislaus campus gives any indication that Grider has no sight. She rarely speaks of her blindness unless asked about it and asks for no special treatment. Rachel mentions her mother, Patricia Grider, and CSU Stanislaus Music Professor Daniel Afonso, Director of Choral and Vocal Studies who has been giving her voice lessons since high school, as her sources of inspiration and encouragement. Rachel said she'd like to be a choral conductor like Afonso in the future.
"She's an incredible talent; a very good musician who sings beautifully," Afonso said. "Rachel works really, really hard at everything she does and will be very successful if she chooses to be a performer or a musician as a career. She can sense a lot of things, so she's learned to perceive the world in a different way."