Soprano coming home for show

If you grew up in Newnan during the 80s, you may remember an aspiring young visual artist named Becky Budd. A lot has changed since then.

“What I did back then was mostly drawing,” said Budd, who now performs by the name Courtenay. Budd will headline the April 26 concert, “Friends of Wadsworth Concert — The Legacy Continues,” sponsored by the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission.

Budd said it’s always good to come back to the town where it all started for her (and for mentor Charles Wadsworth).

“I know back then I was known more for the visual arts, and I haven’t left the visual arts forever. I do want to get back to it,” she said. “I did a little when I was pregnant and had a little more time.”

These days Budd is better known as a soprano, a first prize winner of Young Concert Artists Auditions, heard with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the National Symphony, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and repeatedly at Carnegie Hall, Spoleto USA, and the Grand Teton and Bard Music Festivals.

Even when she was more known locally for her visual flair, “I always sang,” Budd said.

“I sang my first solo at age 7 for the local Rotary Club when I was at the Heritage School,” she said. “That and singing in church kind of gave me my start.”

Still, she said, by the time she went to Sewanee: The University of the South and graduate school at Westminster Choir College in New Jersey she “had some catching up to do.” She found inspiration working under Dr. Joseph Flummerfelt at Westminster.

“The way he viewed music and a lot of things about life – it really caught me,” Budd said. “That’s when I got really serious about singing, in my 20s.”

All along the way, people would tell Budd that she “really needed to meet Charles” Wadsworth, since they were both from Newnan, but they never crossed paths.

“But Dr. Flummerfelt was one of the three artistic directors of Spoleto, so he knew Charles personally,” said Budd. “I knew him by reputation, but that was it. And I think when people would tell him about me, he would dismiss it, at least at first. I mean, you hear things like that all the time when you’re someone in Charles’ position, recommendations from people, especially when they’re from your hometown.

But at some point Dr. Flummerfelt also said something about me, about using me for something. So he’s the one who made the connection with Charles and he agreed to hear me.”

At a performance in Long Island Wadsworth “saw how I could connect with an audience,” Budd said, “and I think he started to take notice. So he had me sing at a concert in Newnan and he invited me on a tour.”

When she sang with Wadsworth in Charleston it was “beyond my wildest dreams,” Budd said.

Scheduled to join Budd in concert this year at the Wadsworth Auditorium are some familiar faces to Newnan audiences: violinist Chee-Yun, cellist Edward Arron, clarinetist Todd Palmer and pianists Jeewon Park and Andrew Armstrong.

The concert will again include an educational component.

Musicians in town for the event will lead Master Classes with local students at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts. Once again, the Master Classes will be sponsored by the Newnan Rotary Club and Cargill.

“The Cultural Arts commission has been working diligently to make this year’s concert an event not to be missed,” said Kim Wright, chair of the event. “Our team of commission members work so well together and we really enjoy being able to bring this special concert to Newnan.”

The concert has sold out for the past four years so make sure to get your tickets early, event organizers said.

General admission tickets for Friends of Wadsworth – The Legacy Continues are $20 and available at Let Them Eat Toffee on the downtown Court Square, The downtown Visitor’s Center in the historic Coweta County Courthouse, Morgan’s Jewelers in Ashley Park, and Bank of North Georgia at Thomas Crossroads.