New York University’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions has named the inaugural Billy Joel Scholarship winners: Yuval Cohen of Jerusalem, Peter Cruz of Perth Amboy, N.J., and Michael Eckroth of Las Vegas.

The $500,000 endowed scholarship at NYU, announced in the fall of 2005, will help these students defray the cost of tuition.

“Billy Joel’s extraordinary talents as a composer and a performer and the impact of his work on the musical scene and industry resonate perfectly with NYU Steinhardt’s numerous bridges to the music profession,” said Lawrence Ferrara, chair of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, which is part of NYU’s Steinhardt School. “Our music students are inspired by Billy’s gift as they prepare for careers in the musical capital of the world, New York City.”

The inaugural winners all begin their studies at NYU this fall. Cohen is a classical pianist who has studied classical piano in Vienna and in the United States. He has won several awards, including the Tel-Aviv Chopin Competition in 1996. Cruz, a classical percussionist, will study with world renowned timpanist, Jonathan Haas. He was a scholarship winner to the Aspen Music Festival. Eckroth, a jazz pianist who received a degree in jazz performance from the University of Nevada in 2001, has played with Bob Belden, Dave Stryker, and Walt Weiskopf.

Joel also created endowments to provide scholarships at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, The Juilliard School, the State University of New York at Purchase; the New England Conservatory; the Tanglewood Music Center; Syracuse University; and the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Academy for Advanced Musical Study.

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