Bursary for musicians revived

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 on November 29, 2023

Funds can help parishes during time of renewal

A funding opportunity for parish musicians that was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic is being revived for 2024. The Douglas C. Cowling Bursary in Liturgical Music is currently accepting applications from musicians in the Diocese of Toronto who are looking to enhance musical participation in their parishes.

The bursary was established by friends and family of the late Douglas Cowling, ODT, a musician, writer and scholar who shared his enthusiasm for accessible music and liturgical experimentation with parishes throughout the diocese and beyond. Mr. Cowling died in 2017.

Douglas Cowling, ODT

“He was so gifted in so many areas that we wanted to establish something that would honour and highlight all these gifts and continue his work. He was very much involved in the ministry of music for all, to include everyone, all ages,” says Elizabeth Cowling, his widow.

The bursary in his name aims to support clergy and musicians to collaborate, foster and implement programming to enhance worship and musical creativity, particularly with participation by all age groups. An award of $5,000-10,000 to a parish in the diocese will support the music staff to further liturgical training or provide creative liturgical programming.

Liturgical programming could include special events and gatherings, community programs around music, congregation and community outreach, a conference or gathering, or a multi-parish project using digital tools to support worship. Training for music staff could include workshops, retreats, guest lectures or musical coaches.

The bursary was first awarded in 2018 to Robert Graham, then the music director at Holy Trinity, Guildwood. “That was quite wonderful, because they had a musician there who was very enthusiastic, with the capacity to work with all ages,” says Ms. Cowling.

A later applicant fell ill and wasn’t able to accept the bursary, and then the pandemic put everything on hold for a few years. “We were creating a conference for parishes doing this type of musical inclusivity just before the pandemic,” says Ms. Cowling. “Life got in the way.”

Now, with parishes back to in-person worship and refocusing their energies on the future, the bursary team thinks this is the perfect time to renew its support of musical creativity and innovation.

“I think parishes right now have gone through a sea change in the congregation and in new people coming in, new rectors,” says Ms. Cowling. “They’re thinking about what they can do and facing some struggles, so we would like to encourage once again parish renewal with creativity.”

The Cowling family had originally committed to giving at least $5,000 a year for five years to a fund managed by the Anglican Diocese of Toronto Foundation, but Ms. Cowling says they’re going to see how things unfold as applications come in.

“We thought five years was going to be a long time, and then three years were taken up by pandemic. We’re reframing everything right now, and we may give more than one bursary if we have many positive applicants. We’re not restricting ourselves to one,” she says.

As for who she’d like to see apply, Ms. Cowling says she hopes to hear from parish musicians who show a similar level of enthusiasm as her late husband. “Someone for whom inclusivity and participation is important,” she says. “Someone who’s drawn to liturgy and thinking, what can I do? Who has a broad background, maybe not necessarily in the Church, but who can bring that to the community.”

She encourages musicians to get the support of their parish priest and to think about the bursary as a whole-parish commitment. “Think about all the talents, all the abilities that you have in your particular parish, and use them,” she says. “Include all the arts; it doesn’t have to be just music.”

The deadline to apply for the Cowling Bursary is Dec. 31, with grant recipients announced in January. For more details, see the call for submissions or email [email protected].


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