The American Board of Pediatric Neurological Surgery

Jan 19, 2011

Atlanta Drums Up National Contest

Article by Brian Hailes

On Sunday, Atlanta hosted the national finals of the Rapido chamber music competition at the High Museum's Walter Hill Auditorium. This event is an outstanding example of collaboration between the private sector and the arts, and also demonstrates how creativity and ingenuity can benefit our area on a national stage.

Everyone knows that the arts in general, and chamber music in particular, cannot survive without outside support.

When local entrepreneur and patron of the arts Ron Antinori decided to fund the Atlanta Chamber Players, he could have simply written a check to cover ongoing expenses. Instead he laid down a challenge: Find a way to grow his contribution artistically while at the same time generating something noteworthy for Atlanta and Georgia.

Antinori sat down with ACP artistic director Paula Peace and they came up with Rapido, a chamber music composition contest in which the participants would have 14 days to submit a short work in a given format using specified instruments. A ripple of excitement ran through the normally sedate salons of classical music. Because of the timing, format and choice of instruments, it would be difficult for composers to use something "off the shelf". They had to be creative and they were working against a tight deadline.

The first contest, helped in 2009, was open to any composer working, studying or living in the 11 Southeastern states. More than 90 would-be participants registered and eventually 35 finished works were submitted. The eventual winner, Jon Heffrey Grier, a teacher and composer at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville, SC, received a cash prize as well as a commission to write a full-length work.

The contest was a huge success and received national attention in the classical music community, so much that two other chamber groups, Boston Musica Viva and Fifth House Ensemble of Chicago, both declared their interest in participating in the next event. The 2010 competition expanded to three regions: Southeast, Midwest and New England and – herein lies the beauty of ownership – national finals were to be held in Atlanta. Because the ACP and the Antinori Foundation own the rights to Rapido, they can control its destiny as it grows.

Regional finals were held in Atlanta, Boston and Chicago in late 2010 with the compositions performed by the three chamber ensembles. Local winners were selected by professional musicians and those three works were performed by the ACP on Sunday. A panel of judges consisting of ASO music director Robert Spano, Atlanta OPera general director Dennis Hanthorn and renowned Boston-based composer Michael Gandolfi were joined by a large and enthusiastic audience to hear the finals, almost filling the Hill Auditorium. Chicago-based composer and music teacher John Elmquist was declared the national winner while Boston composer Patrick Green was the audience favorite, chosen by online voting based on performances available on YouTube in the weeks leading up to the final.

As Rapido grows it will move to a two-year cycle, with additional regions being added for the 2012 contest and ultimately it will cover all 50 states. And, of course, the national finals will be held in Atlanta. The economic impact on our region, while small when compared with popular music or major sporting events is nevertheless real. More importantly, Rapido demonstrates how imagination and cooperation between the private sector and the arts can make a significant contribution to the image and reputation of Atlanta and Georgia.



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