Menuhin Violin Competition Uses World’s Best to Help Texas’ Neediest Fine Arts Students
(Austin American-Statesman) -- Feb. 8, 2014 A few weeks from now, the Formula One of classical music competitions is coming to Austin. Held every two years, the Menuhin International Violin Competition will bring the world’s best young violinists to Austin for this roving competition, last held in Beijing. What better location for an international violin competition than the Live Music Capital of the World?
Between Feb. 21 and March 2, 42 Olympic-caliber violinists, ages 10 to 22, will be arriving with their families and coaches from as far away as China, Norway, Australia, Poland, Russia, Taiwan and South Korea. Two of the contestants are from Texas, including Claire Wells, a 12-year-old from Plano who travels to Austin to train with our own Butler School of Music faculty member, Sandy Yamamoto. The Cleveland Orchestra — widely regarded as one of America’s finest — is coming to Austin to perform with the finalists on Sunday, March 2, at the Long Center.
But this is more than a high-octane spectacle of classical music competition. Through a unique partnership between the Butler School of Music, Robert F. Smith of Vista Equity Partners, and UT’s Texas Performing Arts, it will shine the light of the world’s best young talents on the many children in Austin and Texas who deserve better educational opportunities in the arts.
One of the great, unsung successes of the Texas public school system is the superb fine arts programs — art, music, theatre and dance — available to many children in Texas. Data are scarce, but I’ve no doubt that Texas has the finest public school fine arts program in America.
When other states were slashing fine arts curricula as “nonessential,” Texas turned the fine arts into competition-driven “core” subject areas in the recommended high school curriculum and actually expanded fine arts requirements and teaching specialists.
Performing arts conservatories, art schools and university fine arts programs all beat a path to Texas to recruit their students. I know. I was dean of one of those conservatories in New York not long ago. Texas also boasts some of the best fine arts magnet schools in the country, with Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School and Houston’s HSPVA leading a pack of great schools. Visit these schools or any of the high schools or private preparatory schools in affluent communities of Texas, and you’ll find fine arts programs that would be the envy of principals and superintendents anywhere else in America. In fact, many colleges can’t rival the facilities and equipment one finds in some Texas high schools.
Where we’re failing, however, is that these opportunities are so inequitably available in Texas schools. Some children get the bare minimum exposure to the fine arts. Their schools are so focused on passing standardized tests, the arts get scant attention. Instruments and equipment are not affordable. Their schools suffer from high teacher turnover, a curse on any band or theatre program. Their parents can’t pay large participation fees for a band, theatre or dance program. They can’t pay for trips to Carnegie Hall or for uniforms. They can’t pay for private lessons outside school. They can’t count on business sponsors to support their programs. Fine arts programs flourish in Texas public schools because the efforts and resources of many supplement what the schools themselves can afford. Some communities just can’t keep up, and their kids get the short end of the violin bow.
What Texas does best for so many of our schoolchildren, we have to do better for the rest. The Menuhin International Violin Competition is dedicated to those deserving children. They and their parents are invited to a free matinee concert of the Cleveland Orchestra courtesy of Robert F. Smith of Vista Equity Partners. All the proceeds from this competition will be dedicated to providing free musical instruments and lessons to Austin’s children through the University of Texas COMP program — Children’s Opportunity for Music Participation.
If we think cultural enrichment is an essential part of a well-rounded education, let’s find a way to make it available to all our school children in Texas.
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As beneficiaries of our great American economic system, we feel that it is incumbent upon us to give back and help grow another great American company to its full potential.
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Project Realize is currently engaged with Falcon Containers full-time and Cedar Concepts in an advisory capacity. Falcon, founded in 2002, is an Austin-based provider of portable storage solutions and modified container solutions. Cedar, founded in 1991, is a Chicago-based chemical manufacturer.Continue Reading
Robert F. Smith, Founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, one of the world's leading private equity firms, founded Project Realize in the Fall of 2010. Vista Equity Partners has delivered outstanding investment results to its investors for over ten years.Continue Reading