Donor Story

Cindy Grossman: A Voice the World Needs to Hear

Alumna Endows Scholarship to Keep Opera Students Singing

By Michelle G. McRuiz

Few things are as striking, and few talents as enviable, as a great singing voice. According to UNM Professor and Co-Director of UNM Opera Theater Leslie Umphrey, Cindy Grossman (’99 MMU) has that talent in spades—but it’s not just talent that makes her a great singer.

“The thing about Cindy is her spirit,” said Leslie. “She’s got blond curly hair and a megawatt smile and a personality that just transcends all of that and an elegant, beautiful singing voice.”

When Cindy was a graduate music student at UNM, Leslie, one of her professors, supported and inspired her. She encouraged Cindy when Cindy wasn’t sure she could handle a teaching assistantship, changing Cindy’s world. Now Cindy has established the Cindy Sadow Grossman Endowed Scholarship in Opera with the desire to offer students support and the hope that she can change an aspiring singer’s world. She’s experienced the satisfaction of pursuing her passion but understands that it’s usually not that simple for most people.

“You just have to take the first step,” Cindy said. “The scholarship gives students the opportunity to take a step that otherwise might be more challenging or difficult. It’s like paying it forward.”

Fast Friends

Cindy, who is from a family brimming with musical talent, graduated from Boston University’s School of Education in 1968 with a BS in elementary education. She taught second grade for two years, but it wasn’t her passion. She had never considered teaching voice but rather was more interested in singing, which she did quite a bit in the Boston area— everything from liturgical music (she’s a cantorial soloist); musical theater; standards; folk and blues, while accompanying herself on guitar, and classical.

In 1984 Cindy enrolled in the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass. She graduated in 1990 with conservatory diploma in vocal performance. It was during this time that she became interested in teaching voice.

Five years after her husband passed away suddenly in 1985, Cindy moved to Nevada. After her youngest child graduated from high school in 1993, she moved to New Mexico. Her desire to become more educated musically led her to immerse herself into music again, and she enrolled at UNM in 1996.

Although she wasn’t sure if she wanted to teach again, she applied for and received a teaching assistantship and found, to her surprise, that she especially loved teaching older students, because she was one herself. When she decided to fund a scholarship, those positive memories helped her know she was doing the right thing. “UNM was completely supportive,” she said. “The professors there are just wonderful.”

At UNM, Cindy and Leslie formed a friendship but also kept a professional distance. “As a teacher, you want students to have their own life, their own privacy,” said Leslie. They lost track of each other for a while, then reconnected after Cindy graduated. Their friendship picked up where it left off.

“Cindy encouraged me to be a better teacher because of the respect she showed me,” Leslie said. “She inspires me because of her openness to the world and how she constantly wants to keep learning. There’s nothing about her that is ever at rest intellectually. Even if she has fears, she confronts them head-on. She’s an amazing person to me.”

Nourishing Others

Cindy now lives in Taos, where she sings and teaches voice. One of her past students is a current student of Leslie’s at UNM. Establishing the scholarship in opera was important to her because “when you study voice in the traditional way, you are learning how to use your instrument, how to take care of it, how to make the most of it, and how to discern what it really is. You learn what your potential and limitations are. Singing opera causes you to use your entire instrument. Then you can pick and choose how you want to use it.

“I feel very blessed to be able to do this,” Cindy said of establishing the endowed scholarship. “The opportunity to create something to nourish other people in the future was very appealing to me. I didn’t have any sense of how doing this could be so beneficial. And I thank Leslie because she really was an inspiration to me.”

Like any great teacher, Leslie feels joy and pride at seeing a former student nurture her talent and teach others to do the same. “I want to see her keep singing as much as she wants to sing because I think the world needs to hear her voice,” Leslie said. “I can’t imagine a Cindy who’s not singing.”