When Eric Charman was eight years old, he took up a job delivering groceries with hopes of saving up money to buy piano lessons. As an orphan child in the United Kingdom he didn’t have anyone to pay for him, but he knew he wanted to pursue music.
Eventually someone he worked with helped Charman get his first three lessons, but when the teacher heard he didn’t have funding for continued lessons she put them to an abrupt stop.
“She almost clamped my fingers under the lid of the piano, so that was the end of my piano lessons,” Charman said.
Since then Charman vowed to make music as accessible as possible to young people. Since moving to Victoria as a young man, he transformed into a prosperous businessman and became embedded in the arts community as a patron and enthusiast. Now at 86 years old, Charman is the namesake of the Eric and Shirley Charman Bursary Fund, one of the largest bursary banks available in the country.
The bursary was launched just one year ago for Charman’s 85th birthday; friends decided to start off the program in his name, and thanks to matching funds through the Canada Cultural Endowment Incentive Program and assistance from the Victoria Foundation it began with a healthy nest-egg of $350,000. In 2018, Charman set a goal of getting the fund to $1 million by his 90th birthday in 2022.
Just over a year later he’s reached that goal, with the funds sitting just over $1 million. Interest from that sum will be used every year to provide funding for music students of every level who are aged 25 and under.
One of those students is Johnathan Devey, an 18-year-old musician who hopes to become a concert pianist.
“I didn’t have to work so I could really just focus on the music,” Devey said, after playing a rousing rendition of Alberto Ginastera’s Denza del Guacho Matrero, “I was really able to put my concentration into the music and it really helped me excel.”
The @theVCM announced today that its Eric and Shirley Charman Bursary Fund reached over $1 million. Johnathan Devey is an 18-year-old pianist who has been the recipient of funds from this bursary, allowing him to focus on his dream of being a concert pianist #yyj @VictoriaNews pic.twitter.com/MfKfP5vfbI— Nicole Crescenzi (@NicoleCrescenzi) September 17, 2019
Charman watched the performance and applauded on with a standing ovation.
“My satisfaction is that young people are learning at this conservatory, ” Charman said. “I never had a chance to, and I’ve always said I’d encourage everyone else and do anything I can to help those who need assistance, and encourage and expand music education… it’s very gratifying to see this kind of result coming out of Victoria.”
All donations received by the Eric and Shirly Charman Bursary Fund will receive a matched donation by the Canada Cultural Endowment Incentive Program until Oct. 31.
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