Congratulations to Michael Mazin and Kiarra Saito-Beckman, who have won their respective categories of the 2020 International Grant Competition for two very unique projects. Read more about their work and backgrounds below.
Michael Mazin (Research category)Michael Mazin is currently a second-year master's student in Musicology at McGill University where he works under the supervision of Roe-Min Kok. Before coming to McGill, he received an undergraduate degree in choral conducting at Altai State Institute of Culture, Russia. His primary research interests lay on the intersection of music and politics, including power relations in music institutions, their development and functioning, comparative analysis of music educational systems in different countries.
Project details: Governing the Moscow Conservatory, 1889-1905
This thesis will examine the administrative and management practices at the Moscow Conservatory at the time of Vasily Safonov's directorship from 1889 to 1905. During this period, the Conservatory experienced a rapid growth and gained authority on the world stage in fin-de-siècle Russia. Safonov believed that “as it is impossible for a ‘committee’ to write a symphony, it is also true that only one person can lead a great art business”. Following this philosophy, he sought to establish a one-person management style in his institution to facilitate and accelerate the growth of the conservatory’s reputation as he envisaged it. His policy with respect to faculty and the educational process, and his frequent noncompliance with the Conservatory’s statutes “for the good of the business”, caused serious conflicts with past and present faculty members, most prominently Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Sergei Taneyev. They believed that Safonov had destroyed the environment of creative freedom, mutual trust, and satisfaction among students and professors in the Conservatory. Relying on diaries, private correspondence, and reports in the mass media about the state of affairs at the Conservatory, Michael demonstrates the multilayered power dynamics prevalent under Safonov’s directorship. He will consider the series of events within the Conservatory which led to the director’s dismissal in 1905, which coincided with the first Russian revolution. The project will examine how Safonov reacted to the challenges brought about by the 1905 revolution, and the immediate, lasting consequences his actions had on students and faculty. Eventually these led to systemic changes in the administrative structure of the conservatory with repercussions across the twentieth century.
Kiarra Saito-Beckman (Performance category)Vietnamese-American violinist Kiarra Saito-Beckman is currently pursuing her Master of Music degree at McGill University under the tutelage of Jinjoo Cho. She has performed extensively in the United States and abroad. Kiarra has appeared as a guest soloist with the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Arlington, Garland Symphony, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Coeur d’Alene Symphony Orchestra, and an orchestra composed of members of the Oregon Symphony and the Oregon Ballet Theater Orchestra. Upcoming engagements include performances the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Arlington, and Garland Symphony in April 2021. She has participated in numerous competitions, most notably as a quarterfinalist in the 2019 Sendai International Music Competition, a prizewinner in the 2017 Cooper International Violin Competition, and a semifinalist in the 2016 Stulberg International String Competition. She earned her Bachelor of Music at the Cleveland Institute of Music studying with Jaime Laredo and Jan Mark Sloman.
Project details: Lost Legacies: Illuminating Female Composers of Bygone Eras
Female composers of classical music occupy, and long have occupied, an unenviable position. Subjected to gendered criticism in their time and then largely overlooked from a historical perspective, female composers in the field of classical music largely have been ignored, their oeuvre unfairly overshadowed by male contemporaries. This project aspires to begin rectifying this problem by creating a musical album of sonatas for violin and piano by two underperformed women composers, Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) and Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983). Both Smyth and Tailleferre achieved prominence during their lifetimes. Smyth was an English women’s suffrage activist who ran in social circles with musicians such as Brahms, Grieg, Joachim, and Clara Schumann, and Tailleferre was the lesser-known member of the famous French musical group, Les Six. Despite the artistic successes of these two women, critics attacked their music precisely because it was composed by women, positing that it could not measure up to the standards of male competitors. Although society no longer tolerates such overtly biased commentary towards women, the wrongs wrought by such views have not been righted. It is Kiarra’s hope that this project will increase the visibility of Smyth and Tailleferre by making their works more accessible. More broadly, the project aims to pique interest more generally in female composers, thus raising awareness of the need for classical music culture to treat women as equals. Kiarra aspires to make this project the first step in an extended effort of bringing to light notable female composers who deserve ongoing legacies, but who have been passed over because of sexist approaches to the selection of music that belongs in the canon.