London Music Masters is a charity with an Olympic spirit dedicated to inspiring a generation of violinists, writes Sarah Lambie
Glowing as we are in the aftermath of our extraordinary Olympic successes, I for one am keen that the fairy-dust should not be allowed to wear off too soon. One of my favourite elements of the opening ceremony was the final leg of the torch relay, starring up-and-coming young athletes. The keenness to promote the inspiration and encouragement of young people in furthering their passions or even trying something new was a truly admirable element of the Olympic manifesto, and keen though I really am, I can’t see myself joining the beginners’ section of my local athletics club with a load of nine year-olds. I am, however, always pleased when I hear of an initiative which aims to promote the young or provide them with inspirational mentors, and the London Music Masters is just such an organisation providing opportunities for young violinists.
London Music Masters is a registered charity, funded by private donations, trusts and foundations, which states as its aim: ‘to complete the cycle from early inspiration to life-long aspiration – inspiring primary school children and assisting emerging professional musicians’, and with one further goal in particular, ‘to address the under-representation of ethnic and socio-economic diversity among musicians in professional music ensembles.’ The two strands of the organisation appear in the form of the LMM Awards – an international violin award given every three years to three winners aged 16 to 25 from across the globe – and the Bridge Project, through which LMM award holders commit to inspire and mentor school children, conveying their enthusiasm for classical music and acting as role models.
The LLM Awards were established three years ago, making this year’s the second batch of winners: the violinists who will hold the award from 2012-15 are 22 year-old Alexandra Soumm (Russia), 20 year-old Hyeyoon Park (South Korea), and 21 year-old Benjamin Beilman (United States). These young violinists are to be presented in individual lunchtime recitals at the Wigmore Hall on 16, 18 and 20 October respectively: their programme-planning for these concerts having been done under the supervision and advice of LMM artistic director Itzhak Rashkovsky and Wigmore Hall director John Gilhooly.
As well as a recital, each winner receives a tailored award package including: a financial award of £10,000 to enhance their musical development; concerto performances at the Royal Festival Hall with the LPO; the opportunity to premiere new works by contemporary composers commissioned by LMM, and concerts at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in the USA.
Furthermore, winners are required to undertake their Bridge Project mentoring work – on a regular basis, each winning young professional violinist attends three primary schools in Lambeth and Pimlico: Ashmole, Jessop and Churchill Gardens, to work with children aged between 4 and 8. Previous award holders have cited this element of the arrangement as a highlight: Jennifer Pike, award holder from 2009-12, worked with Royal Philharmonic Society Award-winning composer Charlotte Bray in creating a new work performed with the LPO and children from the Bridge Project as part of the Orchestra’s ‘Bright Sparks’ concert series for schools. She later remarked upon ‘the unique opportunity to become involved with the musical development of young children’. LMM founder and chief executive Victoria Sharp explains: ‘Classical music needs powerful advocates who can communicate a passion, whether on the stage or beyond. It is not only about captivating a concert audience but also about inspiring those in the wider community – particularly the next generation of emerging musicians and potential new concertgoers. For this reason, the winners of the LMM Awards are also chosen based on their potential and enthusiasm for working as role models at a grass roots level within schools.’
As well as their mentoring from the LMM Award winners, children of the Bridge Project have so far had numerous opportunities to put their new skills into practice, in showcases and concerts at the RFH, while also learning from professionals in rehearsal sit-ins with the LPO.
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Alexandra Soumm made her debut at the Vienna Konzerthaus in 2002 after winning the Grand Prize of the Vienna Conservatory Competition, where she studied. She is currently a Radio 3 New Generation Artist and has performed with many of the BBC orchestras including a recent performance of Glazunov Violin concerto with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Alexander Lazarev. She has upcoming engagements as soloist with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra and Zurich Chamber Orchestra, and will also return this year to the Verbier and Gstaad Festivals. As part of the LMM award, Soumm plays – on loan from a benefactor – a Giovanni Baptista Guadagnini violin (Turin, c1785) known as the ‘ex-Kavakos’.
Hyeyoon Park’s previous awards include first prize at the 58th ARD International Music Competition in Munich in 2009 – as the youngest ever winner in the history of the competition, and the Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award 2011. Having made her orchestra debut at the age of nine with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Park has performed with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg, Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra, Staatskapelle Weimar, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, and Munich Chamber Orchestra, and has recently toured with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and Sir Roger Norrington in Japan.
First-prize Winner of the 2010 Montréal International Musical Competition and winner of the People’s Choice Award, Benjamin Beilman’s recent and upcoming appearances include solo performances with L’Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and with L’Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal under Yannick Nézet-Séguin, recitals with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Montréal Bach Festival, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and debut performances of the Jennifer Higdon violin concerto with the South Dakota and Glens Falls Symphony orchestras. Benjamin made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut with conductor Rossen Milanov in June 2009, performing Beethoven’s Romance, which The Philadelphia Inquirer praised for its ‘emotional weight’ and ‘distinctive, full-bodied sound’.