Cadu Verdan’s upbringing in Brazil inspires the music he creates while studying for a master’s in music composition at Illinois State. But it was not an easy road from Brazil to campus. He spent months before being accepted to Illinois State searching for opportunities to fund his education.

“I received two national awards in Brazil for my work, which paid for my application, translation of documents, and living expenses for my first month on campus,” said Verdan.

Verdan’s determination paid off when he received the Ray Johnson Endowed Scholarship, which was enhanced by a six-figure gift commitment from donor Ray Johnson ’74 during the Redbirds Rising campaign.

“This scholarship helped me cover fees that I would not have been able to pay otherwise. If I had not received it, I could not have come here. It is reassuring to know that there is someone who believes in you like this,” he said.

Verdan now studies under composer and instructor Dr. Carl Schimmel, whose work in music inspires his own creative ambitions. Verdan is interested in creating music that expresses emotions, behaviors, and social issues.

To his donor, Verdan said, “I would like to wholeheartedly thank you for this scholarship. This opportunity completely changed my life. The chance to study at an international university with a great composer is a rare achievement for those with my social background in Brazil. I wish to stress to you how your help has given me the best experience of my life so far, and how it will surely change my whole future for the better. What was once unimaginable for me to achieve now seems possible.”

Verdan plans to further his education once he graduates from Illinois State by pursuing a doctoral degree in composition. One school Verdan is considering for further study is McGill University in Montreal Canada. The University would offer Verdan the chance to conduct research in music perception and cognition through its Orchestration and Perception Project.

Scholarship support is changing the lives of Illinois State students. To learn more about how Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State is elevating scholarship and advancing academic excellence, visit