The Mozart Music Fund was set up in 2006, Mozart's 250th birthday year, to provide financial support for those young musicians in South Powys who don't have the means with which to benefit from instrumental tuition. Many of our schools are now only able to offer instrumental lessons by private arrangement between pupil and tutor due to circumstances brought about by their ever-diminishing annual budgets. Powys, unlike most of our neighbouring counties, doesn't have a county music service which provides extra-curricular music for young people; it was abolished in 1993.
County music services provide the following: an opportunity to learn a musical instrument(s) as part of a child's wider education, the opportunity to play that instrument(s) in a county youth orchestra, various string ensembles, wind bands, brass bands, percussion groups, jazz bands etc.Some counties also offer singing lessons and the opportunity to join a youth choir and to take part in projects where singers and players come together to perform as a larger group. In South Powys we are very fortunate that Alan Davies, our Brecon-based cello teacher, almost single-handedly took it upon himself to restart the extra-curricular weekly activities for a youth orchestra and the various other ensembles mentioned above. South Powys Youth Music (SPYM), the umbrella organisation for all of this, survives on a tiny annual budget from Powys County Council of £15,000 a year. This is topped up by occasional grants from bodies such as the Welsh Arts Council, the Community Enablement Fund and some charitable trusts. SPYM is a registered charity.
One-to-one (or small teaching group) instrumental (and vocal) tuition is even worse off. Until recently, most of our schools had been part-subsidising music lessons for children who want to learn an instrument, a position the schools should never really have found themselves in in the first place. However, with annual school budgets being cut, in real terms, year after year,the vast majority of schools can no longer offer this subsidy to their pupils. This results in a two-tier system in which children whose parents can afford lessons and instruments have them and those whose parents can't don't, regardless of talent, ability, enthusiasm or any willingness to take part in music making with others.
The Mozart Music Fund was set up by the international performer and recording artist, violinist Rachel Podger, and her partner, local violin and viola teacher Tim Cronin, who live in Brecon. Rachel has already given several concerts in and around Brecon (at the Cathedral, St Mary's, St David's Llanfaes, Llanigon etc.) and has donated all of the proceeds to the Fund. The combined schools, Brecon Cathedral choirs and South Powys Youth Orchestra concerts at Brecon Cathedral every December raise around £500 for the MMF. The cellist Alison McGillivray and The Cambrian String Quartet have also given concerts in aid of the Fund.
The Mozart Music Fund gratefully acknowledges the vital contribution being made by these various artists who are happily giving their time and considerable energy to help those who might not otherwise benefit from the kind of opportunities which they themselves once enjoyed.
The principle is simple: we have a bank account into which goes all of the money raised at our concerts. We then send cheques to families who have written to us requesting financial help with their children's musical education. Some of the children are highly talented, some are not, but that's not the point of the Mozart Music Fund - it's there to help “level the playing field” so that every youngster in South Powys can have the same opportunity when it comes to being offered the chance to learn a musical instrument.
We were delighted and heartened by the fact that Councillor Martin Weale decided to include the MozartMusic Fund among his 3 chosen charities for his time as Mayor of Brecon (2008 – 2009). Such recognition at civic level is vital for a wider understanding of the problems faced by low-income families when it comes to providing something as basic as music lessons for their children.