The gift of giving

Remember A Charity Week (9-15 September) encourages more people to consider leaving a financial gift in their will. Here, Hannah Turner from the UK charity Awards for Young Musicians shares their experience of legacy giving, and the far-reaching impact that it can have.

Awards for Young Musicians would not exist at all without an incredible legacy left by Robert Lewin (1906 – 1998). Robert, known as Bob, was born above a fish and chip shop in the East End of London. He was given a violin as a young boy and took to it straight away. At 17 he defied his father’s wishes to get a ‘real job’ and left home to pursue music. By 19 he was earning a living playing in the pit of silent films and leading a small orchestra. He later took a particular interest in violin and viola bows and built up a national reputation for his expertise.

About two years before he died, Bob asked his nephew, Michael Lewin, to help him sort his affairs. On visiting his uncle’s flat Michael discovered a steel-lined room in which Bob kept a private collection of instruments and bows. Bob also told Michael of further instruments stored in vaults across a number of London banks. In total Bob’s collection comprised around 70 violins, 200 bows and one very valuable Grancino cello. On Michael’s suggestion, Bob agreed that the collection be used to create scholarships for young musicians needing help to develop their talent.

Bob died in March 1998. Michael had set up the charity by July and our first Awards were made in spring of 1999. Amongst the first recipients were AYM’s now patron, conductor and composer Duncan Ward and super-star violinist, Jennifer Pike. In Bob’s memory we still call our main AYM Awards, Robert Lewin Scholarships.

Over our 20 year history, we have grown and diversified both our work and our income streams. We directly support more than 400 young musicians from low income families each year, through our Annual Awards (means-tested grants for exceptional musicians ages five to 17) and Furthering Talent programme (holistic support for promising children beginning their musical journey). We also support music education through training, advocacy and research.

Legacies remain a very important form of income for us. Alongside the Robert Lewin Scholarships, we offer a number of special named Awards, made in the memory of someone who has either left AYM a gift in their will, or whose family has established an Award in their memory. This is a very personal way of making a direct difference to individual young musicians. Over the last three years these gifts have allowed us to grant over £80,000 (€89,736) in direct funding to young musicians across more than 100 Awards.

Legacies also help small charities like us invest in our long-term programmes, with larger legacies giving us the financial underpinning we need to grow both the scale of our work and our ability to raise more income.

There is a myth though that legacy giving is all about leaving a large bequest. Whilst it’s wonderful to receive large legacies, smaller gifts are also incredibly valuable, particularly to small charities and when combined with other people’s gifts. There are three main ways someone can leave us a legacy: through a share of their estate, a specific sum of money or a specific item (e.g. a valuable antique). It’s also surprisingly simple to set it all up. As AYM supporter, Diana Toeman reflects in her guest blog, “Why I’m leaving a legacy to support the next generation of musicians:

“After speaking to Hester Cockcroft, AYM’s Chief Executive, I found out that leaving a legacy in my Will was really simple. I knew I wanted to do it to honour my husband’s memory and make sure that young musicians growing up today have the chance to fulfil their potential. It’s what Richard would have wanted”.

There can also be tax benefits to leaving a gift to a charity. A donation will either be taken off the value of the estate before Inheritance Tax is calculated or, if 10% or more of your estate is left to charity, the Inheritance Tax rate is reduced. There’s more information on this here.

All UK registered charities can receive gifts via legacies. AYM is a member of Remember a Charity, who host a useful search engine for people looking to find charities that match their interests, whether this be music, the arts, or other sectors include health development. Remember a charity also offer lots of guidance and advice to those looking into legacy giving.

From 9-15 September, AYM will take part in Remember a Charity week. Visit for more information