Yamaha Foundation Scholarships: Supporting Emerging Musical Talent

These are difficult days for student instrumentalists. It was hard enough to make the transition from education to career even before a global pandemic brought the profession to its knees. It’s times like these that the heavy hitters in our industry need to share the love.

Yamaha, the world’s largest musical instrument manufacturer, knows this. Indeed, the Yamaha Music Europe Foundation has been distributing scholarships to young instrumentalists since 1989.

Over the past decade, the Foundation’s scholarship program has matured, rooting itself more deeply in the consciousness of European higher education institutions. To date, it has distributed over 1,000 grants across Europe with a value approaching €1.5 million.

“We don’t want the next Jacqueline du Pré to end up making lattes at Costa Coffee”

Anyone studying at a higher education institution in any of the 34 European countries, including the UK, can apply for a Yamaha Foundation scholarship, with the discipline rotating each year through studies in percussion, brass, of strings, woodwinds and vocals. The scholarship of an amount between €1,000 and €2,000 can be used for any purpose contributing to the advancement of a student’s studies.

“The standards have become so high that we have recently changed the way we judge the program,” says James Sargeant, Yamaha Institutional Business Manager. In 2022, for the first time, the Foundation has partnered with the Associated Board to broaden the scope of its preliminary round and ensure ease of access.

As the only manufacturer of full-range instruments in the world – almost all playable orchestral instruments are made by Yamaha – the company largely assumes its responsibilities. “I can’t think of another company that has such a commitment to supporting music education and in such a forward-looking way,” says Sargeant.

He and his colleagues have observed that former Yamaha researchers have made their way into the world. David Childs (euphonim), Martin James Bartlett (piano), Amy Dickson (saxophone) and Le Yu (percussion) are among them. “You can see the clear progression there,” says Sargeant, who appreciates the fact that Le Yu – whose touring activities were once supported by Yamaha – is now assistant director of percussion at the Royal Northern College of Music and a Yamaha artist. officially designated.

The program has always been about more than instrument sales and Yamaha brand awareness, and the support it offers its researchers goes far beyond the financial realm. “We launched an entrepreneurship award at the RNCM and mentored musicians to help them learn the right business skills they need to succeed in the profession,” says Sargeant. “We don’t want the next Jacqueline du Pré to end up making lattes at Costa Coffee.”

Ruihan Kee, a bassoonist from Singapore currently at the Royal Academy of Music in London after an undergraduate study at the Royal College, is among the Woodwind recipients of the 2022 scholarship. According to her, the prize money has helped her “ better master my instrument” and will help her achieve her goals of playing in a top orchestra and becoming more involved in community music work.

“Playing the bassoon is expensive,” Kee explains, “because you have to spend money on reed-making equipment and tools in order to have the flexibility to play in any setting.” I will use the scholarship money to help me with this and my tuition.

Regardless of his victory, Kee reports, participating in the scholarship program provided him with invaluable experience. “I had decided to push myself, polish my repertoire and enter as many competitions as possible,” she says. “Even though I didn’t win the scholarship, preparing the repertoire was helpful, not to mention the confidence I gained that will come in handy when auditioning for upcoming jobs.

The other 2022 scholarship recipients – in a year that has attracted the most applicants from the UK – were RAM flautist Sofia Matviienko and oboist RCM Bingliang Liu.

Yamaha is determined to stay in touch with its scholars after their victory. “We don’t just send them a check,” says Sargeant. “We can ask them to test prototype instruments or lend them an instrument. We certainly follow their careers and take an interest in what they do.

They may or may not become Yamaha artists, the current roster of which includes LSO principal percussionist Neil Percy.

However, even these players don’t get their gear for free. Just as Yamaha scholars are free to spend their grants on any instrument (if an instrument is required), Yamaha artists buy their own. “We want our Yamaha artists to endorse our products because they want to endorse them and would buy them anyway, not because they get them for free,” says Sargeant.

Yamaha instruments, he says, remain synonymous with craftsmanship and quality. “A Yamaha, whether it’s a student or professional level instrument, will always be built to a standard that will exceed a customer’s expectations at this price point,” says Sargeant. He should know. “We are all musicians at Yamaha,” he says with pride in his voice. “Some of my colleagues are really classy. We are in this business because we love it.

Learn more: Yamaha Foundation Scholarships