This spring Suzan Windnagel, past Caz Board member and long-time Caz fan, made a very generous endowment gift to the Travis Davison Scholarship Fund. The fund was established in 2007 in memory of Travis Davison, Suzan's late husband, who was a Caz alumnus and passionate Caz advocate throughout his life. The fund will provide three or more scholarships per year, in perpetuity, for young trombonists with financial need. We spoke with Suzan earlier this month about her experience with Caz and her decision to make this generous gift.
When did you first come in contact with Cazadero?
The first time I heard about Caz was when I met Travis in 1995 at an executive training program in Madison, Wisconsin. We both worked for financial institutions and were there to learn more about banking, but Travis just wanted to talk about how Caz was restarting, and that he was so excited he could hardly stand it!
My first visit to Caz was in 1996. The spot was so beautiful, and while the place was pretty dilapidated, you could really visualize what was going to happen. The summer of 1997 was the first time I saw campers there, and I was completely blown away. There was so much energy, the music wastrav bouncing off the trees, and there was a vivid excitement in the air aboutrestarting the camp.
Trav was a member of the new Board, I believe he was the Treasurer, and later he became the President. I didn't come on the Board until 1998. Trav and I shared a board seat, which was a situation unique to Caz!
What do you think makes Caz special?
One of the things that really struck me initially was hearing the stories about the old Caz, while watching the new Caz develop. I was struck by the lasting relationships that develop at Caz, and the real sense of belonging that exists there. From the CITs to the Kitchen staff to everyone else there is a sense that everyone belongs and that they are all creating the Caz experience together. It's really special.
The other thing that makes Caz different is this sense of history. It was created by the Lutts and a handful of people, but it lives on, and there is this ongoing desire to share this experience with others, to connect people through music. It's like passing on a gift from one person to the next.
In the bigger picture, there?s a conscious effort and careful planning throughout the whole organization - what is it that will make this two week camp a life changing experience for kids? It's a place for music, for building confidence, for building friendships, and it?s all woven together, like a tapestry, interdependent and strong.
Why did you decide to start a scholarship endowment in honor of your late husband, Trav Davison?
When Trav and I brought our two lives together, we decided what was important to us. Caz was in our top five - we knew we'd support it with our time as well as financially. Caz had meant so much to Trav's life, it had really touched who he was, from age 11 on. He developed his musical confidence there, his leadership ability, and deep friendships that lasted to the end of his life.
Trav really believed in the mission of Caz. He felt such care and attention from the people at Caz, starting with Bob & Beth Lutt. As a camper, the staff had supported him experimenting with a new instrument, and encouraged his potential for leadership, first as a CIT, then as a Counselor. And somehow it meant more at Caz, knowing how strong the competition was for those jobs.
Trav met people at age 11 who were there for him when he died at 58. He had this cadre of people who had shared something special together at Caz, and who took care of one another. They helped Trav play music near the end of his life when it became difficult for him to make music, for example. He ended up playing music and singing until just before he died. And Caz was huge part of that.
Recently, watching my niece, Kate Windnagel, experience Caz as a camper helped me decide to fund the endowment at a higher level than initially planned. I could vividly see what Caz meant to a young person, how it impacted her life on a day-to-day basis once she returned home, how the friendships are lasting. So it's as much about her development as a young adult as it is about her musicianship. I want that opportunity offered to other young people. It should be for kids who are a good match for Caz, and vice versa, regardless of socio-economic background. It's gratifying to help make that happen.
Last, Trav and I trust Caz to make a difference....trust in the leadership of the board and the administration to use the endowment funds to help kids and Caz be successful now and in the future.
Why do you think it?s important to support music education today?
Knowing what I know now about the creative arts and what it does for people, when we look at our entire lives, it's the creative arts that help make us human, and the some of the most joyful expression is made through music. If we don't sing to one another, play instruments, do rhythmic kinds of things as children, our lives will not be as rich, and even more so as we age. If music education isn't there for kids, then we lose some of our humanity, and some of who we are as people.
Why are programs like Caz important?
I think the Caz experience is especially important for kids now. Their lives are so full - they are running from here to there, and in a way, their lives seem disjointed. But when you come to Caz, it consolidates their experience, they get to reflect on who and what they are. That opportunity to be away from cell phones and technology gives them a chance to delve into things in a deeper way. The other thing is that they get to experience being out of their comfort zone. It's a very positive way to try something new.
Any other thoughts you?d like to share?
I'm so gratified and pleased that Caz continues on. I'm so happy that two of my nieces have had such a fabulous time at Caz. I can't imagine there not being a place like Caz for kids today. We all need to do what we can to keep Caz thriving.