Wilson Fund continues extraordinary impact on Vanderbilt music library, students and scholars

Portrait of Anne Potter Wilson (created by Ann Street, photograph by John Russell/Vanderbilt University)
Portrait of Anne Potter Wilson (created by Ann Street, photograph by John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

The vision of one of Vanderbilt University’s most influential benefactors, David K. “Pat” Wilson, BA’41, and his family, will bring transformational change to the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library.

Through a planned gift, the David K. and Paula Ridley Wilson Fund is providing unrestricted support for the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library, which provides unique resources and services to the Vanderbilt Blair School of Music.

“We are grateful for this extraordinary planned gift that will enhance our distinctive approach to the study of music on so many levels,” said Lorenzo F. Candelaria, the Mark Wait Dean of the Blair School of Music. “The Wilson family’s generosity will be felt for generations to come through expanded opportunities for learning and research in an updated and welcoming academic space.”

“The funding will elevate library resources and services through the acquisition of materials from important composers and musicians, significant technology improvements, and an update to the library space to make it more collaborative, welcoming and inclusive,” said Holling Smith-Borne, director of the Wilson Music Library.

One of the key resources targeted for improvement is audio equipment available for students and researchers listening to musical collections in legacy formats. “There is increasing demand among researchers to experience music in the format for which it was intended, such as turntables for vinyl albums,” Smith-Borne said. “While digital copies are convenient, many music scholars and aficionados are seeking a more authentic listening experience.”

The additional funding has the potential to increase and deepen the Blair School’s community engagement and complement the experience of visiting artists. “We want students and faculty to be able to work with scores, recordings and manuscripts associated with our guest performers,” Smith-Borne said. “This will strengthen the experience of artists’ performance and lectures for Blair students and faculty.”

Another planned improvement is a facility refresh to include more modern, comfortable furnishings for students and faculty working together and in independent study. Between classes, practices and recitals, the library provides a welcome respite and a place for the Blair School to connect. In addition, the library seeks to free up space for the Blair community by installing compact shelving for its more than 37,500 musical scores, the library’s highest use format. Smith-Borne noted that the library’s advisory committee has proposed the addition of inspirational art on the library’s walls, and that possibility will be explored in collaboration with the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery.

Pat Wilson, former chairman and life member of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust, played many philanthropic roles in the growth of the Blair School, including construction of its current facility in 1980. The music library was named in honor of his first wife, Anne Potter Wilson, in 1985. In addition, an earlier planned gift from Pat Wilson in 2007 established the Anne Potter Wilson Scholarship, which is the largest scholarship fund at the Blair School, supporting multiple students every year.

“My parents would be thrilled to see the dynamic and lasting impact of their philanthropy on Vanderbilt University,” said William M. Wilson, BA’70, and an emeritus trustee. “They understood the importance of helping Vanderbilt students to thrive through support for scholarships and enhancement of resources.”

The Wilson family’s ties to the Blair School of Music, where the music library is housed, extend back to 1964. Through the Justin and Valere Potter Foundation, of which Pat Wilson was a trustee, Blair Academy was established as a pre-college division of George Peabody College for Teachers. The Wilsons supported Blair’s merger with Vanderbilt in 1980.

Read more about the rich academic resources of the Anne Potter Wilson Music School Library.