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Boonsboro grad earns Nora Roberts Foundation scholarship

July 28, 2008|By JANET HEIM

KNOXVILLE -- When Tyler Austin's parents received an invitation to Boonsboro High School's awards ceremony, they knew their son was being recognized in some way.

What they, and Tyler, didn't know was that he would be named the recipient of the Nora Roberts Foundation Scholarship.

The scholarship, which has been awarded since 1994 to one Boonsboro High senior, will provide Tyler, 18, with $20,000 for his education.

The scholarship is open to students who plan to major in journalism, education, creative writing or English. To apply, students must have a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher, and have been accepted to a four-year college.

The bulk of the application is a creative writing piece, which is read by novelist Nora Roberts, who lives in Keedysville.

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"I applied specifically to the Nora Roberts scholarship because I always enjoyed writing," said Tyler, the son of Greg and Kim Austin of Knoxville. The oldest of four children, he plans to study music education at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa.

When Tyler was awarded the Semper Fi award for musical excellence early on in the assembly, he figured that was it for him. So when the Nora Roberts scholarship was announced about halfway through the program, he was taken by surprise.

"I was completely in the dark," Tyler said. "It was a very nice surprise. My mom jumped up and down screaming. She was probably as happy as I was."

Tyler at one time considered journalism or English as a major, but his passion for music took hold in high school and his creative writing moved from words to musical notes.

He started playing piano at age 5, then added alto and soprano saxophone to his repertoire in middle school and high school. Tyler approached his band director during his sophomore year about learning to play a new instrument, one that would challenge him.

He took up the bassoon for concert season and that will be his area of concentration in college.

"It's the only wind instrument that uses all 10 fingers. It's very different from anything else I played," he said.

He called on his love for music when writing for the scholarship application. Tyler's piece was written from the perspective of a beat-up saxophone about to be played by legendary musician Charlie Parker. In the end, the instrument's insecurities about not being up to Parker's standards prove to be unfounded.

Tyler was one of eight students to apply for the scholarship, said Stacy Aufdem-Brinke, Nora Roberts' daughter-in-law, who added that Roberts said his story was the best she's ever read for the scholarship.

Next year, the scholarship will be increased to $25,000 to encourage more students to apply, she said.

Katie Farr's piece also was memorable, earning her $5,000 as the runner-up, the first time a runner-up has been named.

Tyler had the opportunity to thank Roberts, spending about an hour talking to her before a book signing at her bookstore.

Tyler's activities have included four years of high school symphonic and marching band, saxophone quartet, jazz band, playing with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra as a student musician and playing with the Hagerstown Municipal Band. He played high school tennis and was a member of the National Honor Society.

Thanks to his writing ability, academic record and community involvement, Tyler has received several other local scholarships - WCREPA, Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Tournament of Bands and the Isaacs Scholarship at Susquehanna among them.

Among those he credits for his success are his mother and his private music teachers.

"Thanks to my family, friends and teacher for helping me become better musically and with my writing. I couldn't have done it without all my buddies," Tyler said.

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