A local musician and teacher is looking to revolutionize early music education by commissioning new beginner-level music for young students.
Miki Sawada MUS ’14, a resident musician at the New Haven nonprofit Music Haven, completed a Kickstarter funding campaign last Wednesday to commission four composers — Gabriel Bolanos, William Gardiner MUS ’15, Anna Pidgorna and Ben Wallace MUS ’14 — to come to Music Haven to work on their pieces with students. The funding will also go toward students’ music lessons from instructors at Music Haven. The campaign brought in a total of $4,962, well above the original goal of $3,000.
Tina Lee Hadari MUS ’04, the founder and executive director of Music Haven, said the project combined Music Haven’s belief in social change with its desire for creative projects that serve to connect people.
“The project reengaged many people’s support of the organization,” Hadari said.
Two months ago, Sawada approached Hadari about her idea of a fundraiser to commission new music. Dissatisfied with the available repertoire for beginner musicians, Sawada approached the four composers to see if they could create newer, more compelling music.
Upon receiving positive responses, she began the Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $3,000. Sawada said she was initially surprised that the project was not being funded as quickly as she had expected. But she noted that once the campaign reached the $3,000 goal, additional funding began to flow in at a rapid pace.
According to Sawada, a possible reason for the lack of “interesting” beginning level music is the divide between educators and composers.
Hadari added that writing music for young students is a particular niche that many composers don’t venture into, preferring instead to work on larger compositions for professional musicians or companies.
As a result of the successful fundraiser, Yale School of Music professor of composition Martin Bresnick, who knows Sawada through Yale’s summer music programs, will also be donating a new piece for the Music Haven students.
In writing for beginners, Bresnick will focus on making his piece challenging yet comprehensible enough for young students to a point where they can imagine what they are trying to play before they can play it.
“It’s a very worthwhile and admirable project, not just for social reasons, but also [because it] expands the artistic work,” Bresnick said.
The extra money raised will help cover a Yamaha digital piano, a new music bootcamp in the summer and the ability to record pieces in a New Haven recording studio. Established in 2006, Music Haven provides music education to some of New Haven’s most underprivileged elementary and middle school students, those living in the four high-poverty Empowerment Zone neighborhoods as designated by the city of New Haven.
Music Haven gives tuition-free lessons to students, provides instruments and hosts after school programs. Since its founding, the organization has more than tripled its enrollment, going from a little over 20 students at the start to roughly 80 students now. According to Mira Korber ’16, a Music Haven volunteer, the organization distinguishes itself by its teachers, who work both as performers and educators, and its focus on incorporating parents into its curriculum.
“Your music education doesn’t just end with your lesson, but it becomes a part of your household,” Korber said. “It gives kids a community.”
Music Haven was inspired by Inspired by Community Music Works in Providence, Rhode Island and Bill Strickland’s Manchester Guild in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.