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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Young Musicians Compete for Financial Leg Up

For MTAnya Denisova barely suppressing a smile after winning this year's Rotary contest.
Running her thin fingers up and down her light-blue coat as if they were dancing along the keys of a piano, Anya Denisova, a nine-year-old in braided ponytails, is waiting to go on stage.

Denisova was one of seven musicians, from 8 to 12 years old, who made it to the finals of the All-Russia Rotary Children Music Competition, held at the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory's Central Music School Dec. 3.

The competition was first organized last year by the Moscow International Rotary Club, an English-speaking chapter of the global organization that unites business and professional leaders.

More than 1 million Rotarians belong to more than 30,000 Rotary clubs in 166 countries. The Moscow International Rotary Club, established in 2001, is one of Moscow's five Rotary organizations. With 41 members from 14 different countries, the club focuses on helping underprivileged children.

"We were convinced that there a lot of talented children in Russia," said Josef Marous, general manager of ThyssenKrupp, who served as president of the Moscow International Rotary Club last year. "But often a family situation doesn't allow them to continue their education."

Earlier this year, from July until the end of September, Rotary clubs around Russia sought out the brightest young musical talent in their home cities. The children's performances were videotaped and the cassettes then sent to Moscow, where a jury whittled down an initial collection of 27 musicians to a seven-member group for the final round.

The Rotary Club awards scholarships ranging from 10,000 rubles to 60,000 rubles ($350 to $2,050) to the winners of the contest. The money comes with the stipulation that it must be used specifically to pay for music lessons or to buy a new instrument.

"This is not charity," emphasized Guy Marchand, a director of Combellga Telecommunications, who serves as vice president for the Moscow International Rotary Club. "It is educational help."

This is not the club's first such competition. Last year, the Rotarians sent five young musicians, finalists of the first Russian Rotary Children's Music Competition, on a trip to Italy, on the invitation of Rotary clubs in the towns of Ravenna and Bari.

The trip, which included a series of concerts, not only opened the eyes of the students and helped develop their abilities, Marchand said, but it also showcased Russian talent in the West.

Besides the music contest, club members also oversee at least a dozen other projects, ranging from purchasing computers and sewing equipment for a girls' prison in Ryazan to delivering school buses to an orphanage in Tula. As a rule, the Rotarians do not seek large corporate donations but instead often pay for programs out of their own pockets.

The organizers said they would like to enlarge the music competition so that more children could take part.

"Maybe next year we'll make it for the children from the countries of the former Soviet Union," Marous said, adding that Rotary clubs abroad do not hold such competitions. "It is an event unique to Russia."

On the night of the finals, there was little chatter among the nervous young musicians, who concentrated on their upcoming performances. There was a violinist from Bratsk, a cellist from Moscow and pianists from Tolyatti, Nizhny Novgorod, Kursk and Moscow. Parents and teachers surrounded the finalists, many of whom wore black gloves to keep their fingers warm.

Equally anxious were the Rotarians who had flown in from Germany, Italy and Switzerland especially for the event. The musicians chose pieces from Mozart, Bach, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and others, and the Rotarians greeted each performance with a thundering round of applause.

At the end of the evening, the jury, consisting of six professional musicians and three Rotarians, handed top honors -- and a 60,000 ruble scholarship -- to pianist Anya Denisova.

In the finals, Denisova performed Haydn's piano Concerto D-dur, parts II and III, to an accompaniment by her teacher Valery Pyasetsky, the director of the special piano department at the Central Music School.

"I was a bit anxious," said Denisova, who began studying the piano when she was four and now attends the Central Musical School at the Moscow Conservatory. She named Bach as her favorite composer and she would like to enroll at the main Conservatory when she is old enough.

For second place their was an award of 40,000 rubles, third place took home 20,000 rubles and three fourth-place musicians won 10,000 rubles each.

"We would like to help children who are in a critical moment," Marous said. "If we don't help them, they may never get another chance in life."