—by David Katz, chief judge of The American Prize
The American Prize honored our first Grammy Award-winning TAP laureate earlier this year. (The choral ensemble Roomful of Teeth won a Grammy in 2014 and The American Prize in 2010).
Although most of us may never win a Grammy, or a
Pulitzer, a Tony or an Academy Award, or may never even be nominated, that does not mean that the music we make is unworthy of
national recognition and reward. I am proud to be chief judge of the
The American Prize—because it is the national competition for the
rest of us.
career, I have had the privilege of guest conducting orchestras,
choruses, bands and opera companies all over the country—not just
professionals, but school, church and community ensembles, and not only
in big cities. Whether in the deep south, the far west, the heartland,
or on the coasts, I have encountered inspiring artists entertaining
audiences, educating young people, enriching communities and
contributing to the quality of life.
Maybe you are one of them.
only The American Prize had existed a little earlier in my
career! When I was conducting a community orchestra and a church
choir in Hartford, Connecticut, I would have applied. I would have
wanted to know how my groups stacked up to similar ensembles
elsewhere in the country. Were we really as good as I thought we were?
I was leading a youth orchestra in Elgin, Illinois, and a community
chorus in Libertyville, I would have applied. I thought some of my
programming choices were inspired. Would conductors from across the
country think so, too?
When I was music director of
a professional orchestra in a tiny town in Southern Michigan, I would
have applied. In Adrian, my symphony roared through some of the
greatest pieces ever written, and the audiences roared back their
approval. I wanted people all across the country to know what amazing
things we were doing—how well—and where.
And for twenty-eight years now, I’ve also conducted an orchestra of lawyers in Chicago. Of course, I would have applied.
Because, what if we had won?
if your audience, donors or membership woke up to the news that you had
just won The American Prize, judged to be the
finest in the country in your category, chosen by an
impartial panel of experienced professionals from all across the United
States? There would be prize money, of course, but more important
would be the bragging rights, to be emblazoned next year on your
brochure, or printed in your church newsletter, or announced at the
next faculty meeting. There would be the award certificate hanging
proudly in your rehearsal room, office or auditorium lobby; there
would be articles in newspapers and magazines pointing to your
winning performances, all linked on The American Prize website.
winning The American Prize might help you sell more tickets, or build
your base of donors, or aid recruitment, or enhance your resume, or
solidify your position, or add to your press coverage; if you have
wished there were a way for your work to be recognized by someone in
addition to your audience, board, parents or pastor; if winning might
be the shot in the arm you and your group needs, reminding everyone in
your community that what you do every day matters profoundly—then you
The American Prize is here to stay. It
is an annual competition that is going to
continue to grow in visibility and prestige.
spring, somebody (a group of somebodys) is going to
win The American Prize and be recognized for artistic achievement. Why not you?
The postmark deadline for conductors, directors, arts administrators and ensembles is April 7, 2014. Complete information, including application forms, bios of judges and former winners at www.theamericanprize.org
Katz is chief judge of the non-profit The American Prize.
Professional conductor, playwright and actor, award-winning composer and
arts advocate, he believes deeply in the mission of The American
Prize to recognize and reward excellence in the arts wherever in
America it is found.
EMAIL: TheAmericanPrz@aol.com or: TheAmericanPrize@gmail.com