Gwinnett trio takes top honors in music competition

After social distancing requirements canceled the planned live Chamber Music Competition at Clayton State University’s Spivey Hall over Memorial Day Weekend, Franklin Pond Chamber Music decided to forge on, blaze a new path, and go all virtual.

Despite a huge learning curve, eight student ensembles competed in the Finalists Showcase on Sunday, May 24 and stole the show.

Seven students took top honors in the Competition Awards Show with The Tangent Trio, a group of Gwinnett County students, winning Grand Prize of the High School Division.

The trio consisted of Yuji Yamada of Duluth, John Cho of Buford and Lexine Feng of Peachtree Corners.

RELATED STORY: Annual student chamber music competition goes viral

RELATED STORY: 2020 Shuler Awards presented online

The S4zanda  ensemble won Grand Prize in the Collegiate Division, and included Aria Posner of Avondale Estates, Annabelle Spoto of Dacula, Emma Lin of Atlanta, and Passacaglia Mason of Columbus.

All student finalists throughout Georgia undertook the monumental task of rehearsing and recording chamber music, all while staying miles apart in their own homes.

The competition began with the Finalists Showcase broadcast live May 24 on YouTube Live. Viewers saw full performances and interviews by each of the eight finalist ensembles.

The Competition Awards Show aired later the same day and featured pianist Alpin Hong as master of ceremonies. The internationally distinguished panel of judges -- including Carlos Izcaray, Music Director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Richard Roberts, Concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and Elizabeth Pridgen, concert pianist and Artistic Director of Atlanta Chamber Players --discussed music in the time of the coronavirus. The Franklin Pond faculty, all members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, presented their own socially distanced performance.

“It’s a little bit like the Met Gala meets The Voice, with incredibly talented young artists headlining the event,” said Competition Manager Ginny Fairchild. “Although the coronavirus deprived our young finalists of a live performance at Spivey Hall, this socially distanced platform has actually provided new opportunities and positive learning experiences that we can all take with us into the future — students and professionals alike.”

The effort received accolades and support from an international lineup of distinguished judges and renowned musicians.

“The process of recording a chamber ensemble from multiple locations is incredibly musically challenging and technologically demanding. Even though the resulting recording may look effortless and fun, it took hours upon hours of work to achieve that objective,” said Ronda Respess, ASO violinist and founder of Franklin Pond. “Seeing these young musicians accomplish what is hard for even the most seasoned professional to do is powerful and inspiring.”