Seven 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.
During my younger years as a violin student, my family experienced significant financial difficulties. While I was fortunate to receive financial aid to cover the cost of my lessons, there were always additional worries. When I was assigned a new concerto, I was very excited… but then I had to figure out how to pay for the sheet music. When my teacher said that my concerto was good enough to perform in studio class, I was thrilled… until I realized how much the piano accompanist was going to cost. When I was invited to solo the concerto with an out-of-state orchestra, it was a dream come true… until I discovered that family funds were not available for a plane ticket, a new concert gown, or even fresh hair for my bow. Fortunately, generous individuals came through for me during these tough times.
While my situation was unusual, it is certainly not unique. There are many talented, hard-working young artists whose parents are unable to support the needs of an aspiring musician, especially in these difficult economic times. The RBP Foundation’s Grants for Education and Career provides assistance with costs not covered by traditional scholarships. It has been a great joy to help others as I once was helped.
In 2007, we awarded two Grants. In 2008, we awarded Grants to seven young artists ranging from a 10-year-old violinist in Wisconsin to a Chinese bass player attending graduate school in Chicago. We expect that the number of deserving applicants will continue to increase. It would be a tragedy to have to turn away any young artist in need; with your help, they will all be able to continue pursuing their musical dreams.
In order to grow and progress, a young string player needs a high-quality instrument. The RBP Foundation’s Instrument Loan Program has doubled its collection this year thanks to a number of exciting loans and gifts. Our new instruments range from an antique Vuillaume to a beautiful Stradivarius copy made by master luthier Jan van Rooyen. Over the next few months, we will be carefully selecting the lucky recipients.
Our current recipients have been continuing to make remarkable improvement. In October, my tour schedule took me to Iceland where I reunited with violinist Hulda Jónsdóttir, now 17. When I last heard her in person at age 14, she was an impressively talented student. Two and a half years later, the Brahms Concerto she played for me (in preparation for her solo appearance with the Iceland Symphony) was the work of a young professional, displaying a mature understanding of musical interpretation and a formidable technique. I was especially struck by her creative use of tone colors. Hulda’s teacher, the renowned pedagogue Guðný Guðmundsdóttir, explained that Hulda would never have been able to be so imaginative and inspired without the use of a Vincenzo Sannino violin and Victor Fetique bow from the RBP Foundation. This spring, Hulda will be auditioning for the top U.S. conservatories such as Juilliard and Curtis.
Our curricular project, Music by Black Composers (MBC), is getting ever closer to publication. This year, our work will take us to Black music conferences sponsored by the International Consortium for Music of Africa and its Diaspora, Oberlin College, and the National Association of Negro Musicians. We are especially pleased to announce our new partnership with the University of Michigan. A team of musicology students will be working diligently to research and write composer biographies under the supervision of Dr. Mark Clague. They also will be completing articles on topics including the African-American orchestras of the 19th Century, prominent African-Americans who played the violin as enthusiastic amateurs such as Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglas, and classical music sampling and violin playing in hip-hop and R&B.
Our hope is that the music and history presented in the MBC books will inspire African-American string students by teaching them that classical music is an important part of their heritage, and that this music will also be embraced by students and teachers of all races and ethnicities.
Many of these wonderful works by historic and living composers of African descent from around the world are already being enjoyed by the public. Videos on our YouTube Black Composers playlist have been viewed by almost 20,000 people. Here are just a few of their comments: “Thank you for the beautiful selection. It was done with such grace. I am a 42 yr old Black woman who is learning about this work for the 1st time. Thank God for education and the people who teach it. Never again will I dwell in darkness.” “I am sooo glad to see that someone is making an effort to get black composers recognized. The music is absolutely beautiful and tells a story.” “America would be so much the poorer if it were not for African American music. Thanks for presenting music from our own land.” “This is a beautiful piece. I hope some of this forgotten repertoire will make it into the recital canon.”
Needless to say, posting these videos has also resulted in an increased demand for the sheet music. Tanya Carey, past president of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, said it best: “Hurry up, we need this NOW!”
Global HeartStrings is continuing to support aspiring classical musicians in developing countries by providing basic supplies such as rosin, strings, reeds, and sheet music. This year, supply-gathering drives were held at Peabody Conservatory, Boston University, and the Music Institute of Chicago, resulting in a wonderful collection of items. We have already dispersed some of these supplies to Ghana and plan to send the rest to Haiti. You can find complete instructions for hosting your own supply-gathering drive on our website, and of course we are always in need of funds to cover the cost of shipping.
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.