Just about one year ago, in January 2014, the Cleveland International Piano Competition launched a new program called CIPC ArtsConnect. The program had its roots in Access to the Arts, an organization that was searching for new direction following the death of its founder, Graham Grund. At the time, the program provided concerts for nursing homes in Northeast Ohio using volunteer students from the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Changes have abounded in the past year. While still providing concerts in nursing homes, hospice care facilities, hospitals, and senior communities, under the leadership of Director Sophié van der Westhuizen, the program has grown exponentially. CIPC ArtsConnect is now bringing music to a much larger and more diverse part of the community.
This past summer, for instance, ArtsConnect worked with the Beachwood Community Center to present nine concerts that were completely free and open to the public. Artists ranged from Arianna Körting, the winner of the CIPC’s 2012 youth competition, to piano quartets, chamber music, opera selections, musical theater, cabaret, and a jazz trio. The series offered something for everyone, and audiences responded in kind, filling the space for every performance with standing room only.
Steinway Piano Gallery Cleveland generously provided a concert quality piano for the series, making it possible to present first class artists that audiences normally hear in Cleveland’s major concert halls. The series was so successful that talks are underway to repeat it in 2015.
Several innovative new projects will be highlights of 2015. ArtsConnect is collaborating with the Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association for a yearlong Cleveland Public School program centered on Camille Saint-Saëns’ charming Carnival of the Animals, a work frequently used to introduce children to classical music. The multi-faceted project will include performances of the work in a number of schools; music students learning and performing it with professional ArtsConnect musicians; students presenting a dramatic performance of poems that are inspired by Carnival of the Animals; and art students creating artworks of the animals.
“Children in public schools everywhere are receiving less exposure to music – and particularly classical music – with each passing year, said Dr. van der Westhuizen. “We all live and work in the Cleveland area, so it’s up to us to try to make a difference right here. We’re very grateful to all of the sponsors and supporters that are helping us take these steps.”
Of course, even with the support of sponsors and foundations, none of it would be possible without the artists who are performing at ArtsConnect events. In the past year the artist pool has more than doubled. Now, in addition to CIM students, music veterans who enjoy giving a little back to the community, as well as young professionals who perform and teach in the area are part of the ArtsConnect roster. This diverse group provides a great deal of flexibility for programing, ensuring that the venue’s needs may be more closely met.