The Yuri Rozum Charity Foundation Works to Preserve the Musical Talent of Russia
Text Linda Lippner
Russia has always been well known for the high concentration of musical and other artistic talent among the population. During Soviet times, the government supported the development of this musical talent through a sizable investment in schooling and government-sponsored competitions and concert tours. Now, for the 21st Century, other ways must be found to support the artistic talent of young people in Russia. Private individuals, private foundations, and private businesses are stepping up to the plate by giving financial aid to Russia’s children in order to preserve Russia’s future artistic heritage.
The Yuri Rozum International Charitable Foundation was established to address this investment in the musical future of Russia. Since 2005 the Foundation has been awarding stipends and scholarships to children from all regions of Russia who are in need of financial support so that a child’s musical studies can be continued without interruption. The Foundation has developed a unique concept. Competitions are organized throughout Russia where children are invited to perform before the Foundation’s jury of qualified judges. At these competitions, participants from the age of 7 to 17 are invited to perform, and are judged on their individual talents and potential. If one or more of these children at the regional competitions are found to have talent that should be nurtured, a scholarship or living stipend is awarded to that child to help with the expenses of musical studies for one year. At the end of the year, the recipient’s progress is reviewed and the scholarship can be renewed for another year. The money can be used to purchase instruments, private lessons or transportation to a distant city for more advanced studies. A very good example of the more creative ways that a stipend can be used is by one recipient, teenaged Artem Naumov who is here in Moscow with his mother living in a sparsely furnished room in the music school where he is taking daily lessons to achieve his musical goals, living carefully in a most expensive city on the monthly stipend that the Yuri Rozum Foundation has provided for his education. He is far away from home, but his dedication to his music is supported by his family who are making the necessary sacrifices.
Money to support the scholarships is being raised in ways that contribute to the children’s musical performance experiences. An annual Music Festival has now become one of the major projects of the Foundation and a new tradition has been created to honor the UNESCO International Day for the Protection of Childhood. At the first concert, held on June 1st 2005 in the Kremlin Armory, the first ten annual scholarships were awarded from money raised by the Foundation. On June 1st 2006 and then on June 2nd of 2007, concerts were held at the Moscow Golf Club close to the city center to honor the UNESCO day of support of childhood. Beneath a white summer tent, supporters of the Foundation gathered to hear Yuri Rozum, the Foundation President, introduce the performances of the previous year’s scholarship winners. After the most recent event in on June 2nd of 2007, approximately 50 annual scholarships had been awarded with more individual and corporate sponsors giving to the Fund.
Yuri Rozum, President of the Fund is a remarkable man and performer. Born to parents who were both honored performers of Soviet Russia, he has developed a concert style of passionate interpretation of romantic composers including Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Chopin and early 20th century Russian composers such as Scriabin. His concert work has taken him all over the world after early achievements such as the gold medal and first prize at the Barcelona International Piano Competition, the gold medal at the Pleven International Laureate Festival in 1980, special prize in Tokyo and Silver Medal at the Montreal piano competition in 1984 and others. However, during Soviet times a young Rozum ran afoul of the state authoritarian management of musical careers with his insistence on personal freedoms such as Russian Orthodox worship, reading books by exiled author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and even practicing yoga. A Soviet endorsed career was cut short when Rozum was directed to the army instead of to the masters program at the Moscow Conservatory where he had earlier proven himself an outstanding student and potential concert pianist in his years of study there. Although he was allowed to enter competitions abroad, all offers of performance contracts in the West were rejected by Soviet officialdom. Rozum, as an adult, experienced first-hand the potential withering of his talent that had been nurtured so fully in his early years. His sensitivity to a child’s chances to develop his or her talent, when outside forces are preventing this development, helped fuel his early interest in establishing a Foundation to support children’s musical talent. Mr. Rozum, in speaking with Passport magazine, also spoke of the growing influence of his sense of responsibility in raising his daughter as a single parent and his growing awareness that Russia as a “new “ country was in serious need of resources to develop, or nurture the talents of its future generations.
Rozum’s international career only took off after Perestroika and the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. Then, after 15 years of constant travel and doing all that is necessary to build a successful career, including the honor of receiving the People’s Honored Artist of Russia in 2001 and an appointment as Fellow of the Russian Academy of the Natural Sciences in 2005, Rozum decided on a way to “give back” to his beloved Russia. By founding the Yuri Rozum International Charitable Foundation, he began with a focus on developing young Russian talent. As he told Passport, “culture costs a lot, but lack of culture costs much more.”
He needed to do something, and the opportunity presented itself in a rather unique way. In the village of Zagorianka, which is in the Shchyolkovo region of Moscow, an already existing but under-funded school of the arts asked if they could name themselves “The Music and Arts School named after Yuri Rozum.” Rozum has a dacha nearby and had already spent much time at the school helping as a “patron” to purchase new instruments and raise money for a new building to replace the deteriorating 60-year old school.
Very quickly, the Foundation was born, and maintains an ongoing commitment to this school. In fact this area of the Moscow region also is the home of “Star City” the international training center for astronauts and cosmonauts. Because of this association, additional international music festivals called “Zvezdy” or “Star” are held here. The first, in 2005, was hosted by the first female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, and was a great success in bringing together international classical and folk musicians from around the world. This annual international music festival will continue to raise money for the Foundation in 2008 and beyond.
An additional feature of Rozum’s quest to build and develop young Russian musical talent has been the very important honor of the Foundation’s appointment to implement the Federal government’s program “Where Art is Born.” The program is a regional competition for the best Music School for Children and the best Arts School for Children. The 7-year program was launched in 2006 and the financial responsibility is shared between the Federal government and Russian business. The Rozum Foundation coordinates the fundraising of business monies for awarding prizes (musical instruments, art materials, computers and other financial support), for schools selected as best in the Russian regions, while the Federal government provides funding for the expenses of implementing the program. The program is guided by a Board of Experts who are a Who’s Who List of Russian cultural stars, and which also includes the Rectors of the Moscow Conservatory, the Gnessin School of Music, the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the Jazz Music College and Central Music School of Moscow.
Each year of the 7-year program, the Board of Experts in conjunction with the Rozum Foundation, travels to one of the Russian regions for competition and prize awards. The program started in the far eastern region of Russia in 2006 and will continue across the country from east to west for 7 years. All of the activities of the “Where Art is Born” program will of course serve to publicize and support the scholarship and stipend aims of the Foundation which is to develop artistic talent among the young of Russia.
For further information about the Yuri Rozum International Charitable Foundation and information about donations, sponsorships and concert information, please contact:
Phone: +7 (495) 788 9698
Fax: +7 (495) 788 9501
And for information about Yuri Rozum and his concert schedule for 2008: www.YuriRozum.com