Scholarship honoring Charlotte woman killed 51 years ago granted to talented 9th-grader

CHARLOTTE — With each stroke of her violin bow and a gentle dose of applied pressure, there’s a certain melody that comes from Emily Nazaruk’s instrument that words can’t quite explain.

“When somebody is playing an instrument and suddenly it goes deep in your heart, and tears come -- so fast. The connection is there and so powerful,” said Nazaruk’s instructor Nora Smilovici, from performing arts program Arts+.

Emily Nazaruk is a ninth-grade student enrolled in the program, which offers everything from private lessons to summer camps, and scholarships. The violinist recently became the first-ever recipient of the Sylvia Newman Memorial Scholarship.

“In that moment, I had no words,” she said. “I was shocked because after, I found out that the scholarship was connected with Sylvia Newman’s passing.”

Sylvia Newman loved music too. Her family says she dreamed of becoming a pianist and even played cello in the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra. Newman disappeared in 1972, and investigators discovered her body more than a year and a half later.

Detectives say she was murdered, and the case remains unsolved more than 50 years later.

“I read about her life a little bit, how she loved music, how she had a dream -- it’s like I get to manifest that dream,” Nazaruk said.

The Sylvia Newman Memorial Scholarship was created for string or piano students who show “exceptional musical ability and/or potential through the audition process.” Recipients are then awarded a full scholarship for music study for a year of one-hour lessons.

“It just means a lot to us to have something positive come out of this 50-year cold case,” Sylvia Newman’s sister, Laura, told Channel 9′s DaShawn Brown over the phone. “We think it’s a wonderful, heartwarming tribute to our sister Sylvia’s memory.”

“Just receiving the scholarship -- that kind of woke her up,” added Emily Nazaruk’s Arts+ instructor, Nora Smilovici. “It’s like -- wow!”

It’s exactly why Newman’s sisters bestowed the scholarship -- to honor her love for music.

“I had the pleasure of hearing Emily play last spring and again at the winter recital, and she’s very impressive,” Laura Newman said.

“We think she sets a really good example for other students who might be interested in applying for this scholarship,” she added.

Nazaruk said she is excited and honored to receive the award.

“It’s truly an honor,” she said. “Honestly, I would have loved to meet her. Just like, talk to her about her love for the music.”

The scale of a family’s grief is impossible to measure, though the Newmans have found their share of rest in the rhythms Sylvia loved.

In a statement, Sarah Newman Johnson, also Sylvia Newman’s sister, added, “”Emily has confirmed for us that a truly positive mark can now be added to Sylvia’s memory, and we hope to add many more in the years to come at ARTS+.”

Laura Newman said family and friends contributed to make the scholarship possible, and looks forward to meeting next year’s recipient this spring.

“We are just thrilled that (Emily) is our first recipient,” she said.

If you’re interested in contributing to the Sylvia Newman Memorial Scholarship, click here.

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