Cape Symphony Offers Chance to Fulfill a "Dream Deferred"
By: James Thomas, June 22, 2012
JAMES THOMAS - James Thomas is a musician, educator, and writer who resides in his native Sandwich. Holding a degree in music performance from UMass Amherst, James has performed across the northern United States and in Europe in the classical, jazz, and popular idioms. He currently performs on trombone, trumpet, and vocals with popular Cape Cod acts including Stage Door Canteen, Pocketful of Soul, JABU and the Tribesman, Connors & Company, and his own James Thomas Jazz Group.
In the fall of 1997, German teacher Jon Nakamatsu stepped into his classroom at Saint Francis High in California. He didn’t know it at the time, but he had just started his last year of teaching.
That year, Nakamatsu came out of nowhere to win the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, quickly becoming one of the most celebrated and accomplished pianists of his generation. Holding an associate’s degree in German from Foothill Community College and teaching degrees from Stanford University, Nakamatsu had never pursued a conservatory education or performed professionally until winning Van Cliburn, the first American to do so in 15 years.
How to enter The Soloist:
Download an application online.
Submit the application by October 1, including:
• Application form
• Performance video
• Color photo
• $25 application fee
Eight semi-finalists will be announced on November 1. Each will perform a movement from his or her concerto live on February 9, 2013.
Following the concert, fans from around the world can view performances and also vote for their favorite performers online from February 12 to 19. Audience voting will constitute a 15 percent share of the decision as to who advances to the finals.
The three finalists will be announced on February 22. The finals occur on May 4 and 5 and audience judging alone will determine the winner. Cash prizes will be awarded to first place ($3,500), second place ($2,000) and third place ($1,000) winners.
Applicants must be
• Residents of New England or full-time students at a New England school, no younger than 10 years of age.
• Amateurs not under the representation of any agent or a manager and having never received more than 50 percent of their annual income from solo or group performance
Now a co-director of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, Nakamatsu’s experience was on the mind of Cape Symphony executive director Jerome Karter, Cape Cod Conservatory managing director Stephanie Weaver, and Maestro Jung-Ho Pak as they announced The Soloist, an innovative competition that will give a young musician the opportunity to be featured as a guest artist, alongside the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra in May 2013.
As part of a New England-wide concerto competition, The Soloist program includes several refreshing twists. First and foremost, the only age restriction is that applicants must be 10 years of age by May 6, 2012; other than that, anyone is welcome to audition.
Though virtually unheard of in the classical world, the removal of the upper age limit was particularly important to Maestro Pak.
“This contest is about that dream deferred. Everyone has one, be it in athletics or the arts or professionally,” he said. But for the classical musician, unlike many other forms of human endeavor, the clock never really runs out.
Additionally, the contest is open only to amateur musicians. Anyone deriving more than half of his or her annual income from solo or ensemble performance or who is under the management of an agent is ineligible.
Dr. Weaver is blunt about the statistics. “Only around 1 percent of people will be accepted to pursue a conservatory education,” she said, “and far, far less than 1 percent of them will actually pursue classical solo work and make a living at it.”
Dr. Weaver, Karter and Maestro Pak all agree that the competition is about empowerment. “There is someone out there who’s been getting encouragement from friends and family for a long time but never had an outlet,” Karter said. “Well, we’ll provide that outlet.”
Another innovative feature of the contest is that it is open to all instruments. The selection must be orchestral in nature, but Maestro Pak is downright giddy about the prospects of something new and exciting emerging.
“We all love the Mozart ‘Clarinet Concerto’ and Haydn ‘Trumpet Concerto’ and the other standard repertoire,” Maestro Pak said, “but I’m particularly excited to hear the tapes submitted by musicians on many other instruments.”
Lastly, judging of the finals will be American Idol-style, with the winner being determined solely by the audience. The CCSO seems ready to see where that approach takes them in terms of online lobbying and marketing the finals through social media.
“The CCSO always strives for creative and compelling programming,” Karter said. “But this is the first time we’ve made a competition the cornerstone of our season, and that’s exciting.”