The Pittsburgh Foundation

Scholarships help Colton Dietz pursue a music education career

Image credit: Colton Dietz plays trombone. Image courtesy of Dietz.

By Julia Maruca
Julia is a former intern at The Pittsburgh Foundation in the Communications department.

Colton Dietz began following his passion for jazz improvisation and music because of the freeform creativity it lent him—the chance to express himself in a genre with a rich history. He picked up the trombone in fifth grade in Norwin School District and attended Norwin High School. He brought his interest in sharing music with others with him to The Pennsylvania State University to study music education.     

He has received several scholarships from Pittsburgh Foundation funds over the past several years, including from the Lillian Gorell Scholarship Fund, the L. J. Hancock Music Fund and the Paul J. Baum Fund.    

“These scholarships alleviated those financial concerns down the road and eliminated a lot of that student debt that I would otherwise be presented with,” Colton says. “It’s definitely a hidden gem in my eyes. That I was qualified for several of these awards and was able to tell the committee who I am and I got picked, and that I’m alleviating those major financial concerns--it feels good to be recognized in this way for doing my passion.”    

At Penn State, Colton was president of the Jazz Educators Club and the Trombone Choir, and during the pandemic, he created and taught a Zoom beginner jazz improvisation course as an independent project. For his thesis as a student in Schreyer Honors College, he is inviting high school students to record their own jazz improvisations, then asking music educators to assess their recordings and relate what they find to jazz improvisation pedagogy.   

For Colton, sharing his understanding and exploration of music with students is what drives him.   

“Discovering those lightbulb moments when a student finally understands a concept—those are great. To me, at least, teaching music is not only about teaching music—it is also about the valuable life lessons that you learn within music education, like creativity, communication, collaboration and connecting music to cross-curricular content.”  

Colton is looking ahead to his last semester in the classroom at Penn State before he heads to student teaching at a public school in Pennsylvania.   

“What I’m most looking forward to is interacting with these professors on a daily basis—getting everything out of the School of Music program that I can, to then transfer into future endeavors,” he said.