By Carol South
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse City West Senior High Chorale has been selected as a semifinalist in The American Prize, a new award debuting this year.
One of 50 choral ensembles and conductors applying through a stringent process, they were one of four selected for the next step. Performances were judged based on a broad range of artistic qualities, including the "overall effect of the performance, musicality, rhythmic incisiveness, ensemble, tone quality, accuracy, intonation, knowledge of style," noted chief judge David Katz.
"Excellent repertoire, lovely tone, good intonation," said Katz of the West Chorale. "Russ Larimer's group gave a very strong initial impression."
Launched in 2008, The American Prize offers cash prizes, professional adjudication and recognition to musical ensembles and individuals at the school, church, professional and community/amateur level. The nonprofit competition is open to orchestras, choruses, bands/wind ensembles, musical theater and opera companies. Individual conductors, vocalists, composers and pianists may also compete.
"I really like the goals that the American Prize organizers are pursuing," said Larimer, choral director at West Senior High. "We are very pleased to be listed as semifinalists, and also pleased to be in the company of the other choirs selected ... there are some big hitters there."
"The award has the support of the Michigan School Vocal Music Association and the American Choral Directors Association — so we threw our hat in the ring," Larimer said.
In addition to recognizing outstanding achievement, the goal of The American Prize is to promote and support arts education — which is often threatened by funding cuts, especially during a down economy.
"If winning The American Prize might help an ensemble director recruit more members, or add to his/her ensemble's perceived worth, or solidify his/her position; if it provides a way for the group's quality to be better recognized, reminding everyone in the community that what happens in the classroom every day matters profoundly to the education of young people and the quality of life in the community — then we have more than fulfilled our mission," Katz said.