Fund Est. 2007
Rita (Rumschlag) Girard was best known in the local music world as the ‘behind the scenes’ musical accompanist, but her friends at the St. Marys Choir did not want her to hold the ‘behind-the-scenes’ title any more. Therefore, they created the Rita Girard Memorial Music Scholarship.
Rita’s parents realized she had a special talent to play the piano when, at age four, she could play melodies. At this young age, her sisters encouraged her to play by ear. By the age of nine, Rita began piano lessons with the sisters of St. Agnes at St. Joseph School, and she began organ lessons at age sixteen. Playing for an audience since she was in her early teens and as child number fourteen in a family with fifteen children, Rita was always comfortable as an accompanist.
In 1954, at the age of eighteen, Rita married John Girard and a family of six children soon followed. As they were growing up, Rita was invited to accompany the all-male choir. Rita appreciated the guidance of the sisters and Ed Heimann, St. Mary’s Choir director. He urged and supported Rita to build on her God-given talents and to further advance her education in Liturgy and music in general. Today, the choir has grown to over 40 members both male and female and ages middle school to past retirement age due to Rita's dedication and service.
In 1980, Rita was the recipient of the Seyfert’s Scholarship funded through the Ft. Wayne-South Bend Diocese. Rita attended St. Joseph College summer sessions at Renssalaer, Indiana then held the position as band director for St. Joseph School. This education provided her with the ability to teach the various instruments of the band. When she was asked, “For this position, you had to learn to play all the instruments of the band?” She replied, “Well, I could teach the beginning level but not the advanced.”
When Ed Heimann stepped down, Rita became the choir director and Betsy (Rumschlag) Iacobucci was the organist. After Betsy left, Ron Gage accepted the position as organist while Rita directed. After Rita’s direction, Jennifer Pettibone became the director and Rita was the organist. After Jennifer, son John J. Girard accepted the position as choir director and Rita continued as the organist. During this time the choir gave two concerts at the church and made a cassette tape of sacred music. In the meanwhile, between raising children, being the director, pianist and organist at church, and as music educator at St. Joseph for kindergarten through eighth grades, Rita directed and was the accompanist for the St. Joe Middle School Choir and the St. Joe Sensations (third, fourth, and fifth grades), who shared their talents at church, school, nursing homes, and luncheons.
Over the course of the past 20-30 years, Rita estimated giving over 10,000 music lessons. She was a musical director and accompanist for a wide variety of musical productions and performances and worked, literally, with thousands of students.
As mother of six children: JoLynn (Hiester), Jeannie (Byers), Mary (Arend), Rosanne ‘Po’ (Dawson), Maggie (Hawkins), and John J. Girard, Rita also taught her children to appreciate music and each child played at least one, if not more, instrument well.
One might ask, “What did Rita do in her spare time?” She filled any open moment with events and activities revolving around music. Rita said that life was chaotic, but music was always a part of her life. From the youngest age, she fondly remembers her siblings around the piano singing and enjoying one another – self-made entertainment as she described it. Rita managed to juggle directing choirs, accompanying singers, and working on theater productions. Over the years, she was involved in many, many musicals (to name a few): Lil’ Abner, Annie, Sound of Music, (The) King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, Secret Garden, Schoolhouse Rock, and Camelot. She also was involved in the Community Band and Blue Velvet, a group that performed for weddings and clubs.
For numerous summers, Rita worked with the local Community Theater Productions and Summer Youth Theater. As a major honor and recognition, in 1999, Rita was presented with the Reid Erekson Award. This award is reserved for only the highest ranking and respected talents. Rita was clearly gifted with her talents and had only generous remarks to make for those who supported and encouraged her along the way. She made every effort to give back to the music community who so richly supported her.
It was Rita’s wish that the Rita Girard Music Scholarship be used to provide monetary and moral support to students just like Rita received. She envisioned that this scholarship would be awarded to any serious music student with financial aid, community support, and spiritual encouragement that, together, develops his or her musical talents. Rita shared her God-given talent with the community, and it was her desire that the Rita Girard Scholars do likewise.
For eligibility requirements, please contact the Adams County Community Foundation at 260.724-3939 or the St. Joseph School office 260.724-2765.