Dr. Sam di Bonaventura was determined that music become the language of many. Arriving at Mason in 1975, he taught music history, music theory, and private violin lessons for more than 20 years. Although he enjoyed a distinguished music career, he devoted himself to teaching, conducting courses in music appreciation even outside the department; for six years he volunteered at the Learning in Retirement Institute (now the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute). Music did not have to be “a neglected area” in his students’ lives. Perhaps not everyone had to discourse with ease on madrigals and motets, nor on Serialism and Atonalism, but everyone could listen to a Bach toccata and know just enough to glory in the effort and historical significance behind the beauty. The former chair of the music department, Joe Shirk, once said, “[Sam] loved teaching and his students loved him for it”; loving him, they couldn’t help loving what he loved.
When Dr. Sam died in July 1999, he bequeathed his music library to the University Libraries. The di Bonaventura Collection, which is comprised of books, monographs, LP and CDs, reference works, journals, and over 2,100 operatic, vocal, choral, and instrumental scores, was at the time the largest donation ever received by the Libraries. Although Dr. Sam recognized the task before the Libraries in processing all the materials, he believed that Mason, as a rising university, could not do without a core collection of music: “…[A]ll of this effort and expense will be appreciated by those who will use the materials in the future…Perhaps the 21st Century will elevate the Arts to a level of prestige and importance which they truly deserve, and therefore endow a greater benefit and heritage on humankind.”
Darlene Scott, a longtime friend, shared Dr. Sam’s hope that Mason students and the general public would be able to benefit from their musical heritage. Naming the di Bonaventura collection as a beneficiary in her will, Scott provided for the preservation and cataloging of her friend’s library. The Dr. Sam di Bonaventura Collection Endowment for the Libraries was founded in 2010 with the proceeds of Scott’s estate. Within a year, over 6,000 titles were available in the Libraries’ general collection, and nearly 160 boxes of Dr. Sam’s research notes, musical scores, and program notes were available in the Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. Funds from the endowment are also used to acquire scholarly research materials in music and other related fields within the humanities, such as history and literature.