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No starving artists here

A Philly-raised musician and a Philly-based visual artist each receive $50G to pursue their muse from the Lenore Annenberg Fellowship Fund.

Francesca dePasquale by Alexandra DeFurio
Francesca dePasquale by Alexandra DeFurioRead more

YOUNG ARTISTS often find themselves in a difficult transition after they finish school. Rife with creative energy and knowledge, they're also confronting real-world financial responsibilities.

Talk about a creative buzzkill.

The Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts alleviates some of those pressures. Named for the late philanthropist, the fellowship, now in its seventh year, partners with renowned arts organizations and institutions to award $50,000 a year for up to two years to exceptional young dancers, musicians, actors and visual artists as they segue into their professional lives as artists.

Walter and Leonore Annenberg had links to the city and made significant contributions to it, but no Philly artists had been chosen - until this year, when two of the seven fellowship recipients have local ties: violinist Francesca dePasquale, 24, and visual artist Mia Rosenthal, 36.

"We felt that it was time that we tapped into Philadelphia's culture," said Gail Levin, program director of the Leonore Annenberg Scholarship, Fellowship and School Funds.

If Francesca dePasquale's name rings a bell, it's because she hails from a distinguished family of musicians, five of whom are or were members of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Her late father, William, was co-concertmaster of the orchestra. Her mother, Gloria, is a member of the cello section. Both also formed the dePasquale String Quartet with William's brothers (Gloria stepped in after the death of cellist Francis dePasquale).

Francesca grew up in the Narberth area and attended Episcopal Academy until eighth grade. She was homeschooled after that to allow greater flexibility for her musical pursuits.

"When I was 3 years old, I thought that everyone played an instrument because everyone in my life did," Francesca said. "I just thought that's what human beings did. So, my initial impression was that music is for everyone, and I wouldn't hesitate to say that that grew into my passion for trying to bring music to everyone now."

Francesca's two-year award will allow her to focus on her own career as well as that other passion - educating others about music.

"She grew up going out into the community with me and her father doing community-engagement events," Gloria dePasquale said. "She went into schools and underserved areas with us from a very early age and saw the power of music to connect with people in different circumstances, and she became enthralled with that.

"In this day and age, musicians are finding that they need to develop those skills, but Francesca grew up thinking that was part of the palette and has been developing these skills since she was 4 years old."

Francesca plans to use some of her fellowship to work with a psychologist on how kids of different ages learn. "There are huge differences in cognitive development between a child that is 4 years old and a child that is 6 years old, and I would love to know those differences so that I can tailor my presentations to have the biggest impact," she said.

She'll also record her debut CD, with music that explores "the development of my artistic voice," plus a newly commissioned work from an American composer.

Francesca attended the Colburn School Conservatory of Music, in Los Angeles, and expects to earn her master's degree this year from the Juilliard School, where she has spent her final year working as teaching assistant for Itzhak Perlman. She was nominated for the Annenberg Fellowship by the Perlman Music Program, the summer program for gifted young violinists founded by the renowned violinist's wife, Toby Perlman.

"I think the foundation made a great choice," Toby Perlman said. "Francesca is something out of this world, an elegant, charming, lovely creature. Yes, she's a terrific fiddle player, but she's very special. She's lucky, but she made her own luck. I think that she'll maximize this opportunity."

"I remember when the awards were created," Gloria dePasquale said, "and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that my daughter would one day be the recipient. It's such a generous thing to select these outstanding future leaders in each one of the artistic disciplines and allow them the freedom to grow their creativity."