The Westdene Fund awards grants to individual young people (16-25 years) and living in Sussex, and who demonstrate an outstanding musical talent with an intention to pursue a career in music, and financial need. Awards are made to support a specific activity, such as a masterclass or participation in the National Youth Orchestra, or towards the cost of acquiring a better grade of instrument.
Since the Fund’s launch in 2011, it has made 88 grants totalling £66,500. Here is feedback from some of the young people who have received Westdene grants.
Leah Hallinson volunteers at St Wilfrid’s Hospice, performing to residents on her flute. Leah has received two grants – the first towards the purchase of a Dana Sheridan flute headjoint and a second towards lessons at Junior Royal Academy of Music, masterclass consultation lessons, travel costs and audition fees. Click here to see her playing at St Wilfrid’s Hospice. Leah is now applying to study music at a UK conservatoire.
Cellist Alfred Western has received three Westdene grants towards the cost of his National Youth Orchestra (NYO) annual memberships.
“The NYO is called ‘the world’s greatest orchestra of teenagers’. There are 164 of us, including 18 cellos, and we have three residencies in the winter, spring and summer. The winter residency was based at Nottingham University and I had a brilliant time. We played concerts in the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham, Birmingham City Hall and the Royal Festival Hall. The programme, conducted by John Wilson, included Rachmaninoff’s second symphony, which had a wonderful cello part and great reviews. At Easter, we were based in Hertfordshire and played at Leeds Town Hall and in The Barbican, including Shostakovich cello concerto with BBC Young Musician of the Year Sheku Kanneh-Mason as soloist, which was very inspiring and The Guardian described our Barbican concert as ‘a five star fiesta of energy and talent’. This summer after the residency at Birmingham University, and some performing in Play the City, we played at Snape Maltings, at Birmingham Symphony Hall and at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall. We played a really interesting programme with two modern works, but my favourite was Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. After the summer residency, I had my final residential with NYO which was ‘Play the School’, again in Nottingham, where we played at two schools alongside their musicians and those from a local music hub. We also did a number of workshops encouraging other musicians in the development of their talent. The NYO has been an incredible experience for me and I am so grateful for the Westdene Fund’s support in helping me to be able to take part in it. It is so inspiring to play with other musicians who are of such an amazingly high standard. Having such brilliant conductors and tutors was a wonderful experience that I will never forget. I would really like to say thank you to the Westdene Fund again for their support with my musical activities this year which I hope to continue through attending conservatoire or studying music at University of York from September 2018. It is greatly appreciated. Thank you.”
Joseph Snazell-Holding received a grant towards the cost of a new trumpet.
“Firstly I would like to thank the Fund for giving me this opportunity to progress in my music. It was very much appreciated. I have taken part in two performances, using my new trumpet – one for the Brighton Youth Orchestra and the other for the Brighton Youth Big Band. Both of these performances were a part of the Brighton Fringe Festival which took place throughout May 2017. The grant has allowed me to improve on my technical skill as well as performance quality in both appearances. At the end of June 2017, I will be representing Brighton as part of their youth orchestra in a trip to Poland, where I will be performing multiple times. The improved quality of instrument will allow me to better represent the city better than ever before.”
Joseph Taekema received a grant which allowed him to take part in the 2016 East Sussex Music Service tour. Here’s what it meant to him.
“It has meant that I was able to receive the intense training provided in the workshops, running up to the performance at the De la Warr Pavillion and the tour to Northern France. It will be a lot of hard work, but I will gain much experience. It will help me enormously in my music career and future professional life. Dvorak’s New World Symphony will be both awesome and challenging!”
Elspeth Goacher received a grant to buy a new trumpet. At the time she received the grant, she played with the Hangleton Brass Band and studying for an ‘A’ level in Music at Sussex Downs College in Lewes. “When you get to a certain stage, you need a better instrument than the ones people tend to learn initially,” says Elspeth. “The one I have bought with the Westdene grant is fantastic to play. The keys are smoother and the tone is miles better.” Elspeth hopes to be a music therapist working with children with learning disabilities.
The Westdene Fund was originally set up as the Westdene Trust by Dr Bernard Eastwell, a Sussex businessman and physicist who built a very successful company, selling scientific instruments. He learnt to play the piano at an early age but, despite a continuing interest many kinds of music, the demands of family life and a developing business inhibited developing his own musical talent. He resumed his piano-playing in retirement but was concerned over the lack of public funding for young musicians who show talent.