Students Perform Own Text and Music

One of the goals of the RMVD Foundation has been to encourage children to become acquainted with classical music. Composer Rudi van Dijk enjoyed composing for children having begun his own preparatory classes for the Conservatory in Holland at the age of 10. In his professional career, Rudi worked on children’s programs for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) and the British BBC programme Children’s Playhouse. Since the inception of the first RMVD Foundation Scholarship in 2012 inspired by the generous concerts and donations of Canadian Baritone Russell Braun and his pianist wife Carolyn Maule, we have continued to engage with the Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival and its founders Violinist Anthony Marwood and Cellist Richard Lester in their dream of sharing the love of classical music with local students.

Aware of school funding cuts, Anthony and Richard realized local students were unlikely to be engaged in the classical music experience. They wanted to help fill the gap. Composer and conductor Sam Glazer joined the Festival in 2006 as its Music Education director. Each year Sam has led a brilliantly creative workshop for two groups of 50 students (aged 7-12) from the rural Beckley and Peasmarsh Church of England Schools. Festival participants have willingly donated their time, energy and talent to inspire student participation. These individuals and groups have included : The Lawson Trio, James Crabb, Accordion, The Celan Quartet, Trio Isimsiz, Castalian String Quartet, Doric String Quartet, and the Navarra String Quartet.

How does it work?

Early one morning the RMVD Foundation representatives were invited to attend a workshop session at one of the schools. They listened while the students were discussing the themes for their music (after Mozart K428. I (allegro non troppo) The professional musicians played the students musical suggestions which individual students either hummed, talked through or sang (indicating higher, lower, faster, slower, emotions like happy or melancholic) music. Later, the students wrote how they felt about what the professional musicians were doing. Comments included a young male who wrote I like how they could just play whatever we wanted them to. A young female said Thank you for letting us make our own song. Another boy wrote They didn’t go too fast or too slow, they went at the right speed for us. _ Finally, a young person wrote _When I am older, I would like to play the chello (sic) This feedback was sent to the Peasmarsh Music Festival by their classroom teachers.

Text writing began after lunch. Back in their classroom the group was divided into 5 groups of 5 students each. All students were intently involved in the process. Sam a talented musician and teacher would ask a question, the students after conferring with their group would busily write down their suggestions. After much discussion a vote produced their groups’ best answer. The six answers were written on a flip sheet. Pros and cons were quickly and thoroughly discussed and voted on again. That is how the RMVD Foundation observed the music (first in the morning) and text (after lunch) being written. In this particular case, the Video Waking from my Dream by the Evergreens years 5 and 6 was produced.

Having watched the groups grow over the last seven years, the RMVD Foundation is certainly proud at how engaged the students have become in classical music awareness. This year when the groups performed their Friday compositions at the afternoon concert in St. Peter and St. Paul’s church the audience was overflowing with parents, grandparents, friends and patrons of the Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival. What a change from the first year when only one student was involved in taking keyboard lessons from her grandmother and a meager audience attended.

In June 2022, the RMVD Foundation sponsored its 11th Braun and Maule Scholarship grant for the children of Beckley and Peasmarsh. Again, the inspirational musician and educator Sam Glazier, Music Education Manager, led the children on their musical journey. In June 2018 their compositions were inspired by Commedia Dell’Arte. The titles of their compositions were I am the ultimate fighting machine – Capitano ; Snobnoxious – Brighella__and a new treat__Setmalo a fast, traditional Bulgarian Folksong arranged by Sam Glazer and sung in Bulgarian by the students. They performed their works to a full house thanks to the attentive diligence of Manager Anna Rowe and her supportive team at the Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival’s education component. We are certainly proud of the musical acumen these young people have gained over the last twelve years. Classical music has a home in these two rural villages grounded by the wisdom and guidance of the Festivals founders Anthony Marwood and Richard Lester. Rudi would be proud of these young people and their accomplishments. Who knows, maybe he is!

By Dr. Sharon Brassey-Brierley