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Piano teachers use crowd funding site to commission new works for pupils

9 January 2014

Composer Colin Matthews with CSYM students Ben and Sarah

Commissioning new music is not without expense and heartache, but that hasn’t deterred teachers Betty and Stephen Power from creating contemporary music for their pupils. This year the Powers plan to commission a work from rising star Charlotte Bray and are seeking support online for the funds to pay for it.

The Powers are members of the Cambridge Suzuki Young Musicians (CSYM), a small group of students and parents that has commissioned works from a variety of leading composers including Graham Fitkin, Colin Matthews and Rachel Stott. CSYM pupils were given the opportunity to rehearse with the composers in workshops and masterclasses, and to premiere the pieces in public concerts. Previously, this activity has been funded by a grant from the Britten-Pears Foundation, but the group has now established a ‘crowd funding’ web site to raise funds for the latest commission.

‘Over the past twelve years we have held summer schools where our students have had contact with living composers,’ explains Stephen Power. ‘In 2010 we asked seven composers to write 2-piano pieces for us. We raised money through concerts, practice-a-thons, and were helped with five of the composers by the Britten-Pears Foundation. The intention was to have a set of pieces, one at around Grade 4/5 standard, most around 6/7, and one Grade 8/diploma, that would follow the examples set by Bartók in Microkosmos. Composers Martin Butler, Gary Carpenter, Phil Cashian, Michael Zev Gordon, Colin Matthews, Tarik O’Regan and Rachel Stott produced some wonderful pieces that I hope will someday be taken up by one publisher. Some have been published separately.’

Power met Bray at a concert given by Aldeburgh Young Musicians at Snape Maltings in Suffolk. He invited her to work with his students last summer and there Bray coached the students in her Urban Nocturne for two pianos, and six of her pieces as well as composition. Power believes that it is vital for young people to play contemporary music from an early age, despite the difficulties in securing the necessary resources.

‘Funding has never been easy, and I do think that crowd funding will be useful in the future. Not only to raise money for commissions, but also as a means to spread the word about this music: music that can be played by students, and that is of high quality and uncompromising, deserving a wide dissemination.’

Power hopes that crowd funding – combined with fundraising through pupil concerts and the generosity of audience and family – will raise enough for the Bray commission and for his next project; a commission for a piece for four pianos by Graham Fitkin for 2015.

You can support the project here.

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