Grand Teton Music Festival's 2019 Donald Runnicles Musical Arts Scholarship Competition

Pianist Marshall McCall, shown, won first place in Grand Teton Music Festival’s 2019 Donald Runnicles Musical Arts Scholarship Competition. He took home $20,000 in scholarship funds.

Last Saturday, six students took the stage at Walk Festival Hall.

Three walked off with $40,000 total in scholarship funds.

Pianist Marshall McCall, of Boise, Idaho, cellist Alexis DePaolo (Casper) and baritone Brian Wacker (Cheyenne) took first, second and third place prizes in the Donald Runnicles Musical Arts Scholarship competition, respectively. McCall won $20,000 toward his higher education. DePaolo walked away with $12,500 and Wacker with $7,500.

“It came as a big surprise to me,” first-place winner McCall said. “Some of the other kids were really talented.”

The scholarship, which was launched in 2018 to commemorate Donald Runnicles’ 10th year as Grand Teton Music Festival’s music director, is intended to provide financial support for high school seniors pursuing music — classical, jazz or another genre — in college. Students planning to do so at a conservatory with a “widely recognized reputation” submitted an application video for the competition in April. Six were chosen to compete Saturday.

Now, the three winners will move on to pursue musical higher education, in one form or another.

McCall is planning to start at Emory University in Atlanta this fall, where he will pursue degrees in music and biology. DePaolo is set to study cello performance at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. Wacker has plans to study vocal performance at Oberlin College and Conservatory outside of Cleveland, Ohio.

The scholarship will take some financial weight off all three students’ shoulders.

“It’s such a relieving thing,” McCall said. “I was going to have so many student loans, but this will cover so many of them.”

McCall said he was not planning on pursuing a career in music — he wants to go into some kind of biology-related field — but said he was planning to major “in it for [himself].”

“It’s my biggest passion,” he said. “I want to keep learning about it in-depth and diving into the subject.”

Wacker, on the other hand, is all-in on music, making a decadeslong bet on his vocal cords. He said he still has a few years until his voice fully matures (a process that, for men singing classical music, might not be complete until turning 40) so he is thrilled to have the opportunity to dive into his art and establish a baseline he can use in the years to come.

For him, he said college is all about learning how to become an artist, musical or otherwise.

“I’ve been thinking that once you get out of undergrad as a musician, everyone’s gonna have technique so you’re gonna need that level of artistry to be good,” Wacker said.

“You need that extra step, and I’m hoping to reach that level.”

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7062 or

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