Friends of Wadsworth concert is continuing legacy of service to youth

From left, Courtenay Budd, David Del Tredici and Gil Rose./Photo by Kathy Wittman.

March 11 brings Newnan’s annual “Friends of Wadsworth Concert: The Legacy Continues,” and the 2017 edition continues both a legacy of great music and the opportunity for local high school students to learn from world-class artists.

The “Friends of Wadsworth” series carries on the spring concerts made popular by Newnan famous son and world renowned pianist Charles Wadsworth, founding director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York City.

For two decades Charles Wadsworth brought world-class talent from the classical music scene to perform in his hometown. Early Wadsworth and Friends concerts helped raise funds to renovate the auditorium at Newnan’s 1939 art deco Municipal Building on Jefferson Street and outfit it with technical and acoustical enhancements. The City of Newnan honored Wadsworth by naming the performance hall in his honor.

Now Newnan’s own soprano Courtenay Budd has taken the reins as concert host and is bringing both familiar and new faces to perform on the Wadsworth stage.

“The evening will be magical, filled with music that will awe and inspire,” promise 2017 concert co-chairs Phyllis Graham and Kim Wright of Newnan Cultural Arts Commission.

Joining Budd are soprano Indra Thomas, pianist Andrew Armstrong, violinist Soovin Kim, clarinetist Narek Arutyunian and cellist Sang-Eun Lee.
Soovin Kim is artistic director of the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival and on the faculty of New England Conservatory.

Sang-Eun Lee and Narek Arutyunian are both associated with Young Concert Artists Inc., the non-profit organization founded in 1961 by Susan Wadsworth, wife of Charles Wadsworth. Young Concert Artists is dedicated to discovering and launching the careers of exceptional, but unknown, young musicians from all over the world.

“This year’s program is extra fun, with returning favorites Indra and Andrew, as well as newcomers Soovin and young YCA artists Sang-Eun and Narek,” said Budd. “The program features works by Brahms and Mendelssohn, a heart-stirring section from Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time,’ French and American vocal works, and a nice dose of George Gershwin, finishing with an arrangement of ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’”

Through the sponsorship of Newnan Rotary Club and Cargill, a master class program continues for students from Coweta County’s three public high schools. Begun during the run of the Wadsworth and Friends concerts, Charles Wadsworth and such popular artists as violinist Chee-Yun Kim held sessions with talented local students. Working to coordinate those first master classes were the late John White of Newnan Cultural Arts Commission and the late Don Nixon, founding director of what is now Coweta County School System’s Donald W. Nixon Centre for Performing and Visual Arts. Helping coordinate this year’s master class at the Centre is Cathe Nixon, widow of Don Nixon, who is now director of the performing arts facility.

Courtenay Budd and Indra Thomas, both sopranos who perform on classical music’s world stages, along with pianist Andrew Armstrong, on Thursday morning, March 9 will lead the vocal master class at the Centre. Up to five singers each from East Coweta, Newnan and Northgate high schools will bring music and perform for these professionals, and will receive their critiques.

Praised by critics for his passionate expression and dazzling technique, pianist Andrew Armstrong has delighted audiences across Asia, Europe, Latin America, Canada and the United States, including performances at Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and Warsaw’s National Philharmonic. In fall, 2016 Armstrong was touring Canada with friend and incomparable violinist James Ehnes
In addition to his many concerts, his performances are heard regularly on National Public Radio and WQXR, New York City’s premier classical music station. Armstrong is devoted to outreach programs and playing for children. He performed in the 2014 Wadsworth concert in Newnan.
Budd, long an avid recitalist and chamber musician, is now taking an increasingly active role as a concert programmer. She is serving a fourth season as artistic director of the yearly chamber music concert in Newnan, and has added a fall vocal concert.
The “Friends of Wadsworth” spring concert continues the legacy of her mentor Charles Wadsworth, with whom Budd performed extensively, most notably for seven seasons on the Spoleto USA Dock Street Chamber Music Series in Charleston, SC.

Budd and Thomas were scheduled for a February appearance in Poughkeepsie, New York – the “Healing & Hope Concert” to benefit The Harriet Tubman Academic Skills Center in Poughkeepsie. The center provides an after-school mentoring and tutoring program for youngsters living in poverty. Also in February Thomas was scheduled at Carnegie Hall – Stern Auditorium singing with the Music For Life International “Mahler for Vision: A Concert for the Restoration of Vision.”
Thomas has performed in opera roles and with top orchestras throughout the U.S. and overseas from Spain and France to Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, Abu Dhabi, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and South Africa. Considered one of the foremost Aidas in the world today, Thomas sang the role at the Chorégies, d’Orange in a performance televised throughout France during the summer of 2011.

A graduate of Georgia’s Shorter College, Thomas attended Philadelphia’s highly regarded Academy of Vocal Arts, where she received an Artist Diploma. Her big break came in 1998, when she became one of 10 first-place winners in the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, which are devoted to discovering new talent.

Thomas, who lives in Atlanta, has been an adjunct voice instructor at Shorter and a private voice instructor at Pebblebrook High School in Cobb County,.
She should be familiar to Newnan audiences as part of the all-star cast in October 2015 for “Rags to Riches,” an evening of musical theater organized by Budd at the Wadsworth. The fall evening featured Warren Martin’s humorous “The True Story of Cinderella,” and Thomas sang the role of the First Stepsister. She has also performed in “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at Coweta County’s Centre.

Thomas’ 2012 CD, “Great Day! Indra Thomas Sings Spirituals,” is available on .

Budd has had a busy individual schedule as well. In spring 2016, after opera concerts with the Symphony of the Americas and her third year as artistic director/host/performer in the annual Friends of Wadsworth concert, Budd joined Boston Modern Orchestra Project, under the baton of Gil Rose, simultaneously performing and recording David Del Tredici’s 2 1/2-hour epic Child Alice.
The piece required three sopranos at its premiere 30 years prior. Allan Kozinn wrote for The Wall Street Journal that Child Alice “requires a huge orchestra. It has a central, rather gymnastic soprano line, which Ms. Budd rendered with alluring subtlety at times and ecstatic energy elsewhere.”

Following her NYC Symphony Space all-Del Tredici concert with the composer at the piano, the New York Times raved, “Ms. Budd brought gleaming sound, complete involvement and impressive stamina to both cycles, which she sang from memory. The audience gave a standing ovation to Ms. Budd and Mr. Del Tredici.” Budd, “a champion of Del Tredici’s work” has performed his music at the Guggenheim Museum, Bard Music Festival, Zankel Hall, 92nd Street ‘Y,’ Le Poisson Rouge, and Bargemusic. Her recording of his Field Manual with Fireworks Ensemble and conductor Steven Mercurio is available on eOne Records.
A Metropolitan Opera National Finalist, Budd has performed opera roles including Ilia in “Idomeneo” at Alice Tully Hall, Baby Doe, Zerbinetta, Zerlina, Pamina, Laurie in “The Tenderland,” and Marie in “La fille du régiment,” with such companies as Central City, Opera Omaha, Atlanta Opera, Sugar Creek Festival, and the Colorado and Charleston Symphonies.
She is a favorite of audiences of the Symphony of the Americas, who have enjoyed years of her characterizations of Gilda, Norina, Adina, Lakmé, Cunegonde, Juliette, Elvira, and Mimi, to name a few.

Herself a First Prize Winner of Young Concert Artists Auditions, Budd has been heard with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the National Symphony, Colorado Symphony, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, Kennedy Center, and the Grand Teton Festival.

The “Friends of Wadsworth” concert is March 11 at 7:30 p.m. (doors open 6:30 p.m.) at Charles Wadsworth Auditorium, 25 Jefferson St. in downtown Newnan. General admission tickets, $25, are available at and Newnan-area outlets: Let Them Eat Toffee!, downtown North Court Square; Coweta County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Historic Downtown Courthouse; Matrix Insurance, Regions Bank Building, Hwy. 34 E. at Thomas Crossroads; and Branch & Vine, Ashley Park.