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Ellis Finger, director of Lafayette’s award-winning Williams Center for the Arts, will chair the Chamber Music America 2003 national conference Jan. 16-19 at the New York Hilton.

The role is particularly significant because the conference, organized on the theme of ‘’Speaking in Tones,’’ will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Chamber Music America.

Chamber Music America is the national service organization for musicians, managers, and presenters who work in the field of chamber music. Finger joined the CMA Board of Directors in 2000, and recently was invited to serve a second three-year term, beginning next June. Among CMA’s directors are violincellist Yo-Yo Ma; Ann McClean, producer at the Library of Congress, Music Division; Marna Seltzer, director, University of Chicago Presents; Robert Martin, vice president for academic affairs, Bard College; Marc J. Baylin, president of Baylin Artists Management; and Michael Ross, executive director of Krannert Performing Arts Center at University of Illinois.

Robert Mann, for 30 years the first violinist with Juilliard String Quartet, will speak at the conference awards luncheon, and pianist Richard Goode will appear as the 2003 Bogolmony Award recipient for exemplary contributions to the field of chamber music. A special feature initiated by Finger’s conference committee will be the eight-hour Chamber Music America 25th Anniversary Marathon at Symphony Space, with showcase performances by 17 ensembles, including Juilliard Quartet, Anonymous 4, Stefon Harris Quartet, Concertante, Music from China, Peabody Trio, and Chamber Music Chicago.

Chamber music organizations receive nearly $1 million annually from CMA. In addition to funding short-term residencies designed to help create new audiences for chamber music and foster the development of emerging ensembles, CMA grants support attendance at conferences, workshops, seminars, and training opportunities; hiring of consultants to address specific issues and challenges of ensembles; creation and performance of new music; and rural residencies in which ensembles learn repertoire and hone performance, teaching, management, and interpersonal skills. Lafayette has received CMA grants supporting community residencies by St. Lawrence String Quartet in 1994 and New Century Saxophone Quartet in 1998.

CMA has grown from 35 founding members in 1978 to 8,000 members today. Its primary constituents are professional chamber ensemble members and concert presenters, festivals, and training institutions. Membership also includes allied business members and individual members, including independent professional, student, and amateur musicians.

The Williams Center for the Arts has showcased some of the world’s greatest chamber music groups, such as Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, American Brass Quintet, the Emerson, Orion, and Tokyo String Quartets, and various baroque and early music groups.

“Our work as a chamber music presenter and educator has benefited particularly from the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence program, which has brought to Lafayette such distinguished artists as violinist Diane Monroe and the Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo, both of whom have been recipients of CMA commissioning grants,” says Finger.

The CMA conference honor follows the 2002 William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence presented to Finger earlier this year by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters at its 45th annual conference. The national award recognizes sustained achievement in programming, and honors an individual or organization for quality, innovation, and vision of program design, audience building, and community involvement efforts. Finger’s selection came via a unanimous vote by the APAP’s awards committee.

The Williams Center director’s work also was recognized last year when the New England Foundation for the Arts chose Lafayette as a “hub site” for the third phase of the National Dance Project. “The review committee is impressed with your organization’s commitment to the creation and presentation of new dance work, the strength of its partnerships and alliances, and its continuing dedication to the art form,” stated Samuel A. Miller, executive director of the New England Foundation for the Arts, in a letter to Finger. “Additionally, the committee recognizes your capacity as a leader in the field, and values the knowledge and experience that you contribute to the project’s efforts.”

The hub site designation is effective through December, 2004. Hub site representatives help identify projects for production support, recommend projects for National Dance Project (NDP) funding, serve as presenter partners in the development of certain dance projects funded by NDP, serve as an advocate for NDP projects to other presenters, advise tour coordinators on tour development, and make recommendations on the allocation of available touring support. Lafayette is among a dozen hub sites, which include Dartmouth College, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Joyce Theater in New York, and Washington Performing Arts Society in Washington, D.C.

The nationally recognized Lafayette Performance Series at the Williams Center attracts more than 10,000 people each season. In addition to honors by Chamber Music America and National Dance Project, it has been recognized for performing excellence by National Endowment for the Arts, Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, Pennsylvania Arts and Humanities Councils, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

Categorized in: Academic News