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Lewis Eady Trust: Opening doors for young musicians

John Eady, Lewis Eady Charitable Trust
John Eady's advice to young musicians with ambitions for reaching professional performance standards.

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If you’re from Auckland, you’re likely to recognise Lewis Eady as an institution. Established in 1884, the Eady family have been specialising in pianos and guitars for four generations. In 2008, Lewis Eady’s great grandson, John set up the Lewis Eady Charitable Trust “to better serve and support emerging talent and music education within New Zealand.” I spoke with John Eady about why he set up the Trust and how young musicians can benefit from it.

John was a professional musician when he was younger, going to the Royal College of London to study clarinet. This was made possible through a generous funder who awarded him a significant amount of money in order to study. There were few strings attached, except an expectation that he would return to New Zealand at some point and reinvest in music and art. He did come back, after eight years, with his young family but by this stage he was working in a different industry. It wasn’t until his father was approaching retirement age in 2001 that he decided to step back into the world of music and took over running Lewis Eady.

With him John brought knowledge about the realities of what it is like to seek a professional music career and a huge amount of passion for creating opportunities for young musicians. There was one specific student, John says, that triggered him to set up the Lewis Eady Charitable Trust. He was a young pianist brought to John’s attention by a music teacher at an Auckland School who had a huge amount of talent but limited resources. Jason Bae’s mother had emigrated to New Zealand when he was young and was not in a financial position to afford a piano. John recognised that without a piano, Jason’s talent would go unexpressed in the world, so he organised for Lewis Eady to loan him a grand piano. This was the help that Jason needed to set him off on what has become a successful career as a pianist. At this point it dawned on John that if Jason was in this position, there were without a doubt other kids in similar situations.

This experience set the ball rolling for John to create the Lewis Eady Trust with a clear plan in mind of what he wanted it to achieve. Nine years after establishing the Trust, they provide the following opportunities to young musicians:

Competitions

The Lewis Eady Trust provides kids with performance and educational opportunities that are otherwise lacking in New Zealand. Before they established these competitions there was no infrastructure in New Zealand to support kids to reach international performance standards. As a result, young musicians would go overseas to study or perform with little idea about the standard that they would find themselves up against.

Often the thing that young musicians need most is an opportunity to play in front of the public. The Trust runs annual competitions that are structured across primary and intermediate (Lewis Eady Junior Music Contest), secondary (Wallace National Junior Piano Competition) and tertiary (Wallace National Piano Competition) levels. These competitions give kids a chance to perform in a competitive environment, and feed into one another so young musicians can increase their skill set as they move through school.

Entry into the junior music contest is open to any child who wants to stand up and play. For the later competitions, kids are required to submit a DVD which an independent adjudicator selects the entries from. These competitions offer a springboard for young musicians to step into the international competitive scene by the time they have completed the tertiary level competition.

Loan pianos

The Trust has three pianos that they loan out to “deserving youngsters who would otherwise be held back due to not having an instrument.” Lewis Eady donated a grand and an upright piano, and a private donor donated a second grand. The Trust manages the loan of these pianos. Recipients have an annual contract with the Trust and are expected to perform on occasion.

There is no application process for a loan piano, rather the requests come from teachers because, John says, “they are the experts within our industry.” John maintains a strong relationship with teachers in New Zealand. “If a teacher has a child that they feel is being held back due to financial difficulty, we’ll do our best to step in and facilitate scholarships and things like that.”

Fundraising concerts

It is common for Lewis Eady to open up their show room to host fundraising concerts for young musicians. They provide the piano, advertise it through their database and host the event. “I hate the concept that funds that are gifted to us do not make it to the young artists. We cover the costs of tuning the piano, put on some food and drinks and provide staff on the night so that all the rest can go to the beneficiary.”

John is always happy to put a concert on if a pianist comes to him and asks. It is a good indication that they are taking responsibility for their own career, and supporting them in this way is something that brings him much satisfaction. “We get a huge amount of enjoyment out of doing this and really it’s about watching the kids progress from a young age to a point where they're becoming successful musicians. That young lad, Jason Bae [who we lent the first grand piano] is now a successful artist who released his first CD last year.”

Mentoring

John takes it upon himself to act as a mentor and guide to individuals seeking a musical career path. He says that having gone through the process himself, he knows that it is probably one of the hardest things you can do. “Many [young musicians] view it with rose tinted glasses and then struggle when they get to the point where they want to make a living out of it.”

John is open to helping any young person who comes to his door. “Wherever there is a genuine need, we will try to help.” He shared with us his top four pieces of advice that he gives to the young people he works with who have ambitions of reaching professional performance career in piano:

  1. Don’t neglect your school subjects: Put your energy into the rest of your school subjects as well as your music. These other subjects will put you in good stead and teach you how to be well organised.

  2. View music holistically: If you’re an aspiring concert pianist bear in mind that your chances of success are small. Plan to prepare yourself to be a world class musician and add more strings to your bow. If all you want to do is play the piano on stage, you’re going to be disappointed, but if you get involved in chamber music, teaching, conducting and orchestral work you'll find a lot more opportunities available to be a musician and from that comes your solo career.

  3. There is no substitute for practice and dedication: You have to be wholeheartedly dedicated to the cause.

  4. Seek opportunities: Get your head out of the piano from time to time and look for opportunities around you.

For more information, visit the Lewis Eady Charitable Trust: http://www.lect.co.nz/

Written by

Hannah Mackintosh

5 Jun 2017

Hannah is a Wellington-based writer, community organiser and lover of stories.