Gift of music

Donors stepped up when the pandemic disrupted the lives of students

By Anna Holtby - 10 June 2021


As a girl in Ukraine, Viktoria Grynenko fell in love with violin — a passion that led her to doctoral studies at the U of A. When COVID chaos hit, donor generosity helped her continue her demanding studies.


It was spring 2020 and Viktoria Grynenko was on her way to realizing a dream she’d had since she was 13 — to make music her lifelong profession. The University of Alberta violin student was about to enter the final year of her doctor of music program, and she had a busy summer ahead of her, playing music festivals and gigs to help pay for her education and living expenses.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Overnight, Grynenko’s rehearsal spaces closed and her income evaporated as restrictions on gatherings meant cancelling performances.

Grynenko was one of thousands of University of Alberta students whose lives were turned upside down by the pandemic — but who found a lifeline thanks to the generosity of donors. Grynenko received a bursary to help cover her living expenses.

Donors helped other students — many of whom had lost income — cover costs associated with remote learning (such as laptops and webcams), childcare, groceries and accommodations if they had to self-isolate.

“Students are taking it one day at a time out there. They’re trying to be as resilient as possible. They’re persevering,” says Chris Rebus, who, along with her husband, Don, gave to the Augustana COVID-19 Student Support Fund.

“It’s up to us as a community to find whatever resources we can to help them.”

For Grynenko, the knowledge that strangers had supported her life’s work provided her with extra motivation to focus on her studies — and her ultimate goal to teach music at the university level.

“The pandemic has added to the stress that students already have, and many are struggling to find hope. It’s up to us to help them know it’s going to get better.” — Chris Rebus, donor to Augustana COVID-19 Student Support Fund

She is on track to complete the research and performance recitals she needs to finish her degree by fall 2021. Although she’s not yet a professor, Grynenko is already thinking about how she will inspire the next generation of musicians.

“I want to help them develop the skills they have,” Grynenko says.

Grynenko looks forward to the day she can play violin in front of a live audience again. She believes music will play a crucial role in helping people find hope and recover from the stress of the last year.

“For an hour or two you go into a different world,” Grynenko says of watching live music. “You’re not thinking about your worries.”

Donor Impact


 * The most recent data available for undergraduate financial supports administered by the Office of the Registrar.

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