Alumnus plays it forward with gift of cello
by Jennifer L. Williams
At age 10, Jeffrey Doyon ‘85 told the inquiring music teacher that, sure, he was interested in learning to play the cello.
The only problem was he didn’t have one.
She had a solution for that.
The teacher got William & Mary’s Department of Music to loan Doyon a cello, which he repaid decades later by donating one to the department in December.
“I was pleased to be able to do it,” Doyon said. “And I like the thought that the College will be able to put the instrument to good use. And maybe facilitate the next generation of musicians.”
Doyon grew up in York County, Virginia, and it was a regular occurrence for the music program to poll 5th graders to see who was interested in playing. His music teacher’s relationship with W&M facilitated the cello loan.
Doyon used that cello from ages 10 to 16, and borrowed another one during his junior year at W&M to use in private lessons. During his younger years, he played cello with the Williamsburg Youth Symphony at W&M on weekends for three years.
“Certainly I knew other students I met from around the Virginia Peninsula who were renting instruments,” Doyon said. “But the instrument the College lent me was actually much nicer than what the local music stores were typically renting out. So it was a real encouragement in my pursuit of music.”
Doyon currently lives in Arlington, Virginia, and is chief financial officer for Human Network International, which provides information and communication technology mostly in developing countries in Africa and Asia.
As an adult, he has owned a couple of instruments, including the cello he purchased in South Carolina when he decided to take up playing again. He occasionally played in quartets and with his brother, a violist.
“As the years went by, I was playing less and less, and I thought about selling the cello,” Doyon said. “I thought, you know what? I could pay back an overdue debt to the school for the time they lent me an instrument. And I thought there was some nice symmetry in me being able to eventually donate an instrument back to the College.”
Doyon has other connections to the university. His son graduated from W&M last year, and Doyon’s father attended W&M in the 1950s before eventually graduating from George Washington University.
Doyon swinging by to drop off the instrument was very welcome, according to Director of Orchestras David Grandis. He was running short on cellos, and still is.
“It’s a huge help,” Grandis said, going on to add a quip, “The only regret I have is that the donation came too soon because I was going to beg the dean to buy another cello, and we would have had four instead of three.”
There is a demand for loaner instruments in the department for several reasons, he added. There are a lot of cases where a student owns a cello, but didn’t bring it thinking they wouldn’t have time to take lessons or don’t have space to store it. Others want to try playing an instrument, but aren’t serious enough to purchase one.
“It barely covers our needs,” Grandis said. “With this donation, we have three cellos right now, and it’s not enough. Because I have plenty of students, like five to 10, between the fall and spring who would like to take lessons with [Instructor] Neal Cary who do not have a cello. And they’re asking me if there is a cello for rent or to borrow. “
All three of the department’s cellos are currently on loan.
“So that was fantastic because we were down to two,” Grandis said. “One is heavily damaged and probably beyond repair, and one has been lost before I came to William & Mary. So two or three are not enough.
“So to have this third cello, that is quite beautiful … better than the other two. So now I will wait a little bit [to ask]. Ideally we would need at least a fourth one.”