The Dale City community, still aglow with the Olympic victory of track star Benita Fitzgerald last summer, is bragging this time about a non-native son who arrived in its midst last September to attend high school and will leave tomorrow with a full music scholarship to West Virginia University, his chosen career as a symphony violinist almost assured.
Richard Dunn, 18, was living with his family in Cincinnati, learning piano and violin at that city's School of Performing Arts last year, when it became apparent that his mother would not be able to pay the school's tuition. So he came to Dale City last summer to live with his aunt and uncle, Kellice and Joncie Powell, and to attend Gar-Field High School.
At Gar-Field, orchestra teacher Michael Trowbridge lent Dunn his own violin so that he could play in advanced orchestra -- but he needed lessons. These were soon provided free by Trowbridge's wife, Deborah. Still Dunn ached for more.
"I just picked up the phone book, looked up the number for the Prince William Symphony Orchestra and started asking the secretary if they would allow a student to audition," he said. Finally permission was won and he walked the mile to the Dale City church where the audition would be held, his music memorized, his hopes high and his nerves taut.
"He played the first movement of Mozart's Third Violin Concerto and we were impressed," said concertmaster Henry Kocinski. "We knew this was a talent that shouldn't be wasted."
Said Dunn, "When I got the call that night that I should come and pick up my music, that I would be playing with the symphony, I said 'thank you' very calmly. Then I hung up the phone and screamed." He played four concerts with the Prince William Symphony before the season closed in April.
In the past six months, life has moved swiftly for Dunn, and so many people have helped him that he says he doesn't know all their names. Kocinski gave him a black formal jacket to wear at concerts. A symphony board member persuaded Louis Haza, a county resident who plays violin for the National Symphony, to give Dunn private lessons, something Dunn had to give up reluctantly for lack of transportation. Another board member, a doctor at Potomac Hospital, told Edith Pearson, his nurse and a member of the Prince William Symphony Guild, about the youth's need for a good instrument. She soon put 50 letters in the mail to churches, groups and organizations in and around Dale City. There were, Pearson said, more than 70 responses -- and $3,089 was raised.
"We knew he deserved a scholarship and wouldn't be able to get one without his own instrument," said Pearson. "He is so talented and so shy. The first time he came to see me he was wearing a white shirt and tie with his blue jeans. I liked him immediately."
Ten days ago, in a donated white dinner jacket tailored (free) to fit him, Dunn gave a recital for his benefactors with the violin purchased from a Bethesda merchant who, following a pattern that was fast becoming commonplace in Dunn's life, gave him a sizable discount on the $3,450 instrument. He even, Dunn said, allowed Dunn to play his $125,000 Stradivarius while he was in the store. "I was awed. It had been used by Paganini," he said. "I was in touch with history with that violin under my chin."
Tomorrow Dunn leaves for Cincinnati to spend the summer with his family and, he hopes, to find a job in data processing or accounting before leaving for West Virginia University. His ambition, he said, is to earn a doctorate in music and play for the National Symphony.
"I will be back to Dale City," he said. "I've made so many friends here and Mrs. Pearson has been a Virginia mother to me." Dunn vowed to repay the generosity shown him by "doing the same thing for someone else some day."