By Rachel Barton Pine
Chicago, IL, USA
I grew up in a financially struggling household. My father was frequently unemployed. Our phone and electricity were often shut off, and many times we were one missed payment away from losing our home. My mother home-schooled me so that I could achieve my dream of becoming a concert violinist. She became an expert at stretching the grocery money, and she learned how to convert thrift store dresses into performance-wear.
Scholarships allowed me to continue my violin lessons, but they didn't cover out-of-pocket expenses like the cost of sheet music, concert clothes, audition recording sessions, accompanist fees, new hair for my bow, new strings for my violin, gasoline needed to get to lessons, or airfare to competitions. As my playing became more advanced, I needed an instrument of a higher quality than my family could afford. Sometimes I wondered why I was still clinging to the belief that I was meant to be a violinist when the obstacles were so seemingly insurmountable.
Inspired by some of the challenges I faced in my early years as a musician, I formed the Rachel Elizabeth Barton (REB) Foundation in 2001.
Today, two of the REB Foundation's programs deal directly with supporting and encouraging talented young string players who want to become professionals. Our Grants for Education and Career program helps with those very expenses not covered by traditional scholarships that I used to struggle to pay. Our Instrument Loan Program allows these deserving young players to benefit from the use of high-quality instruments that otherwise would not be available to them. Support is given to young string players between the ages of 10 and 30 on the basis of musical talent and accomplishment, artistic aspirations, financial need, and commitment to a career in music. To date, we have assisted more than 50 young artists from around the world.
Two other REB Foundation programs address diversity in classical musical – for performers, programs, and audiences. In conjunction with the University of Michigan, the REB Foundation is developing a curricular series: The String Student's Library of Music by Black Composers which will acquaint students of all races and various stages of development with the rich heritage of classical string music by composers of African descent through repertoire, composer biographies, and history articles. These composers include men and women from America, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, spanning from the 1700's to the present day. Most of this music is currently unavailable to students because it's either in manuscript only or has long been out of print.
The REB Foundation's Global HeartStrings is dedicated to supporting aspiring classical musicians in developing countries who cannot obtain such basic supplies as rosin, strings, reeds, and sheet music. We continuously gather materials to send to countries such as Haiti, Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria. Future plans include sponsoring residencies for music teachers and instrument makers from America, and providing scholarships for musicians to study performance, pedagogy, and instrument repair in the U.S.
I was extremely fortunate to be helped by some very generous individuals during my early years as a musician. Without their belief in me, I wouldn't be where I am today. I hope that by helping the next generation, the REB Foundation will honor those people who made such a difference in my life.
To learn more about the REB Foundation and those it has helped, please visit: www.rebf.org.