Photo by Marsha Miller
Sheryl Goodnight remembers everything. A flute and piano virtuoso who earned a bachelor’s of music in applied piano with a certificate in flute from The University of Texas at Austin in 1992, she effortlessly recalls every teacher she has every studied with on either instrument, every ensemble with which she has played, every master class attended, every audition, every competition.
Her encyclopedic memory extends to every piece of music she has mastered, and not just the title and composer, but the piece itself, section by section, phrase by phrase, measure by measure, note by note. She estimates she has a significant part of up to 100 major works memorized.
This last bit of astounding recall is rooted in necessity; Goodnight is blind.
UT Austin is one of the best universities in the country for accommodating visually impaired students, she says. “I really used what I learned here,” says Goodnight, who teaches flute at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor and Temple College. She also serves as principle flutist for the Temple Symphony Orchestra and gives solo and chamber music performances.
Now she is making a planned gift that will endow significant scholarships in both piano and flute to allow others to follow in her path. “UT had such an impact on my career and touched my life in so many ways that I thought I would like to leave a mark at this school.” And she wants her scholars to be as excited about and focused on a Longhorn education as she was. “There’s a certain
standard here unlike any other place, I feel. I spent time preparing to come to this place. I didn’t come until I felt like I was ready.”
Born, reared, and still living in Temple (where, as she puts it, she is married to her music, her dog, and her computer), Goodnight attended Temple College and Baylor before enrolling at UT Austin, where she studied from 1981-92.
She could see in childhood and still can see light and shapes, but in the 1980s the contrast between light and dark started to diminish. To help her learn the pieces, her mother would perform the flute and piano parts, and to this day her house is “inundated with boxes of cassettes.” A device that inserts a special tone to mark the beginning of a new section helps her skip around in the music to rehearse specific passages.
She studied under many influential teachers at UT Austin including Betty Mallard, Nancy Garrett, John Hicks, and Karl Kraber. Goodnight started teaching privately in 1981 and has taught more than students since then, 41 of which have made All-State Orchestra.
“If you’re going to study music, you do it because you’re passionate about it and you love it,” says Goodnight. “It teaches you to express yourself. It’s also very good at relieving stress. Music gives you interdisciplinary skills, structure for your day and your life.”
"UT had such an impact on my career and touched my life in so many ways that I thought I would like to leave a mark at this school."