Six years ago, when The Rachel Barton Pine (RBP) Foundation was established, our goals were set high – not simply to distribute an instrument or two to talented young musicians, but to create an organization that would be far-reaching in scope and diversity.
With the help of many generous friends, we have built four programs designed to do just that. Our efforts support music education and young artists close to home and around the world. You can help ensure that this important work continues.
Last year, we announced a new RBP Foundation initiative, Global HeartStrings, to benefit aspiring classical musicians in developing countries. These musicians face significant obstacles obtaining basic musical supplies such as rosin, strings, reeds, and sheet music.
Last August, I traveled to West Africa to work with the Ghana National Symphony (GNS) in Accra. I observed first-hand the conditions that these full-time, professional musicians live with every day. Barely existing on their wages, they don’t own their instruments and can’t afford basic supplies and maintenance. Instruments are held together with packing tape; unraveled strings and old reeds are only changed if broken. Despite these challenges, their enthusiasm for classical music and love of performing are remarkable.
One member of the GNS orchestra recently wrote, “… I do teach some children in my area how to play some of the classical instruments, and I also provide them with things including food for them to become more interested with the instruments. But like I told you, I only have one violin, viola and a trumpet, so if any assistance could reach me to help these children, I would be much grateful. It’s my desire to live such a legacy that I have trained some children.”
Our supply-gathering efforts to date permitted me to give the GNS a number of strings and a brand-new trumpet (to replace one full of rust). Also, thanks to a generous donation, I was able to bring six violins, two violas and a cello to help start a new youth orchestra in the Ghanian town of Winneba. We look forward to sending more instruments and supplies to Ghana in the next few months.
The RBP Foundation’s Instrument Loan Program is currently providing two violas, four violins, and five bows to talented young artists ranging in age from 10 to 27. Following are just a few of our “success stories” that our generous donors are helping to make happen.
In February, two of our Chicago recipients, 10-year-old Adé Williams and 14-year-old Joshua Greer, appeared as soloists with the Highland Park Strings at Ravinia. Following their successful performances, Josh and Adé became the first African-American students accepted into the prestigious Academy program at the Music Institute of Chicago.
On December 19, Yang Xu, a student of Midori and the recipient of a fine French bow, will perform works by Brahms, Kreisler, and Saint-Saëns for the Dame Myra Hess concert series at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Without the help of the RBP Foundation, none of these deserving young artists would have access to instruments of the quality necessary to inspire their growth as musicians. We have a waiting list of many other gifted players, and we are actively seeking loans or gifts of additional instruments.
There are many other lives that have been touched by the generosity of our donors. We were able to give our 2007 Career Grants to two extraordinary young women. Jennifer Stumm and Joanna Marie Frankel each used their REB Foundation grant to help with their Carnegie Hall debut.
Jennifer Stumm, one of today’s most exciting young violists, recently won first prize in three major international competitions: William Primrose, Geneva, and Concert Artists Guild (where she was the first solo violist in the nearly 60-year history of the competition to win). Her upcoming recital debuts include the Kennedy Center, London’s Wigmore Hall, and Ravinia’s “Rising Stars” series.
Violinist Joanna Marie Frankel, winner of the Juilliard School’s 2007 William Schuman Prize for outstanding artistic excellence and leadership, is making her mark as an innovative performer. Upcoming recital engagements include Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, performing a program that combines spoken literary texts, contemporary works, and traditional repertoire.
Our curricular project, Music by Black Composers (MBC), is continuing to progress. MBC recently received its very first piece of music written expressly for our anthology. Dr. Gregory Walker, renowned violinist and composer, contributed “Duet for Two Violins.” This delightful piece, incorporating hip-hop rhythms and catchy melodies, is sure to become a student favorite.
Our team of researchers is busy gathering historic repertoire from around the world, collecting works by living composers, editing the music, and writing composer biographies. There is much work yet to be done before we can publish our series. Nevertheless, our music is already being enjoyed by many young players. We are especially pleased that the Sphinx Competition (for Black and Latino youth up to age 26) has expanded its repertoire to include works from our MBC collection.
The future of classical music depends on supporting talented students and young professional musicians during the early, formative years of their development. With your help, these young artists will inspire the next generations as they provide the world with many years of beautiful music. Your gift is truly the gift of a lifetime.