In the spring of 2009, 21C Media Group launched a new image- and awareness-building program called 21C Artists To Watch for classical musicians on the brink of major careers. Through this initiative, 21C provides regular information about the artists’ activities directly to classical music tastemakers in both the industry and the media. Since its inception only a year ago, the program has developed a selective roster of some of the most noteworthy and promising artists making music today. Here are a few highlights of their impressive successes over the past year:
* In January, Kirill Gerstein received the 2010 Gilmore Artist Award, a $300,000 prize given every four years to an exceptional pianist who, regardless of age or nationality, possesses broad and profound musicianship and charisma, and who desires and can sustain a career as a major international concert artist.
* In April, Susanna Phillips became the first soprano to receive the Beverly Sills Artist Award from the Metropolitan Opera. The $50,000 award is the largest of its kind in the U.S. and is designated for extraordinarily gifted singers between the ages of 25 and 40 who have already appeared in solo roles at the Met.
* In April, tenor James Valenti was named the 2010 recipient of the Richard Tucker Award. Often described as the “Heisman Trophy of Opera,” the $30,000 prize from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation recognizes an American singer poised on the edge of a major international opera career.
* In April, Van Cliburn (2005) silver medalist Joyce Yang was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant from Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Artist Program. Established in 1974 by the late Avery Fisher as part of a major gift to Lincoln Center, the $25,000 Career Grants give professional assistance and recognition to talented instrumentalists with great potential for solo careers.
* Pianist Inon Barnatan, a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, made his San Francisco Symphony debut this season and curated a three-concert series for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Alice Tully Hall.
* Pianist Alessio Bax, a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, released his second solo recording to rave reviews from the major music magazines. Bach Transcribed was selected as a “CD of the Week” on the UK’s Classic FM.
* Brooklyn Rider released its second album, Dominant Curve, amidst a packed six-week winter tour that took the hipster string quartet from coast to coast. Brooklyn Rider was the only classical group invited to play at the 2010 South by Southwest Festival. Its new album was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and recently debuted on Billboard’s classical chart.
* Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, whose career is skyrocketing in Europe, had two important U.S. engagements: his debut with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and a return to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The 32-year-old Spaniard led the Staatskapelle Dresden, and conducted Jonathan Miller’s production of Elixir of Love at English National Opera.
* Violinist Stefan Jackiw recorded the Brahms Sonatas, released by Sony in Asia in December and now available in the U.S. on iTunes. The 25-year-old violinist, who is of Korean-American descent, also enjoyed debuts earlier this season with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cincinnati and Toronto Symphonies, and a west coast tour with the Russian National Orchestra under Mikhail Pletnev.
* Cellist Joshua Roman made his San Francisco Symphony debut and premiered David Stock’s Cello Concerto with the Seattle Symphony, two big highlights in a season of debuts as concerto soloist with orchestras across the country.
The cornerstone of the 21C Artists To Watch program is a monthly e-newsletter that 21C distributes to the media as well as to industry professionals – including many of the country’s most influential artistic administrators – who have asked to receive information from the program. A few of the artists are highlighted in each e-newsletter, which describes their recent and upcoming activities. Also as part of the ATW program, 21C Media Group works with presenters on promotion strategies for select key engagements, maintains press materials, and advises the artists on a variety of media- and image-related issues.