Sir Bryn Terfel – one of the UK’s most successful and popular opera singers – has teamed up with Wales’s national conservatoire, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) in Cardiff, to create a new scholarship fund to help support young artists training at the college.
The new initiative was launched on 25 February. Cronfa Syr Bryn Terfel – cronfa is the Welsh word for fund – has been developed by the Welsh bass-baritone and RWCMD. It will provide opportunities for students who might otherwise be unable to benefit from the college’s advanced training because of financial barriers, with a focus on scholarships and bursaries.
It will also fund projects that celebrate Sir Bryn’s musical heritage and reflect his passion for the Welsh language and Welsh culture. One of its first projects will be a new Song Prize, an international biennial singing competition starting in 2024.
In a celebration of individual cultures and different languages, competitors will be required to include at least one song in Welsh and one in their own language in their programmes. It will be open to singers from the college along with other UK conservatoires and international colleges. The winner will receive a £5,000 prize.
“The Cronfa Syr Bryn Terfel Song Prize will be hosted at The Royal Welsh College but will be open to singing students from other conservatoires and colleges in the UK and internationally,” Sir Bryn said.
“This prize will be a celebration of language, with competitors required to offer a programme that includes a song in Welsh – we have so many beautiful songs, a ‘lied’ of our own, and Welsh brings out the best in a voice – as well as a song in their own language.”
Sir Bryn – who is a vice president of RWCMD – is aiming to create a £5m fund with the help of funders and philanthropists from Wales, the UK and further afield. It will establish lasting scholarships to ensure that those who have the talent to train at the highest levels at the college do not face financial barriers preventing them.
“At the start of their careers young artists dream of achieving great things, just as young sports men and women do,” Sir Bryn continued. “But with funding for arts education and the arts in general constantly squeezed and under pressure, it’s becoming more and more difficult for our next generations – particularly those who don’t start with financial advantage – to come through as I was able to.
“It now matters deeply to me to get behind them and to establish a permanent foundation here at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. This is Cronfa, and my wife Hannah and I are working closely with the leadership and development teams at the college to find and inspire the first philanthropists and donors who will join us on this exciting journey to build a new and lasting fund and to create the opportunities and support that are so desperately needed.”
This is part of a bigger scholarship story for RWCMD, giving opportunities to deepen representation and inclusion in the creative industries. In 2021 the college announced a sector-leading programme awarding bursaries of up to £1,200 to all its new UK undergraduate students with a household income of below £30,000 per annum.
In a joint statement, Helena Gaunt, principal, and Tim Rhys-Evans, director of music, said: “We are thrilled and honoured that Bryn is aligning himself so closely with the Royal Welsh College and all that we are trying to achieve here. Together we are going to work to build Cronfa Syr Bryn Terfel into a powerful new fund – one that will help us to bring a wider diversity of talented young artists, including more students from Wales, to our advanced training and then offer them some extraordinary opportunities while they are training with us.
“In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and amid huge financial pressures, life in the arts is not an easy choice to make, so we need to make sure that future generations of young people feel they can join us to break new ground, create outstanding work and feed into the industry to make positive change. Our partnership with Bryn, Cronfa Syr Bryn Terfel and those special people who support it, will help us to do this.”
Sir Bryn Terfel announced the launch of Cronfa Syr Bryn Terfel, his new scholarship fund with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, at a special fund-raising event that took place in February (Kirsten McTernan).