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Ariel Artists Announces New Annual Innovation Competitions

A Call for the Best Artistic Ideas in Classical Music, Focusing on Relevance, Innovative Power, Inclusive Dialogue, Diverse Participation, and Positive Impact 

Ariel Artists announces a new, annual “innovation competitions” format, launched through its innovation platform, Ariel AVANT: Connect Forward. The competitions function as an open invitation to classical musicians and chamber ensembles to push forward the evolution of classical music as an art form, with concert presenters, industry thought leaders, and Ariel Artists roster artists all joining forces to identify best ideas in the marketplace and reward them with development time, commissioning support, and performance opportunities. AVANT takes the competition beyond artistic mastery, focusing on relevance, innovative power, inclusive dialogue, diverse participation, and positive impact as metrics of excellence.

Ariel Artists founder Oni Buchanan explains, “I founded Ariel Artists in 2009, as a pianist and poet interested in contemporary music and interdisciplinary performance. As a young, unknown artist engaged in non-traditional performance endeavors, I booked concerts for myself from 2003 to 2013, honing my strengths of programming curation, recontextualizing canonical works alongside contemporary repertoire, creating interdisciplinary collaborations, and offering performance residencies. Through those efforts, I built a machine whose infrastructure I realized I could leverage to represent a full roster of artists pursuing innovative work and seeking to engage with communities of people. My impact would be exponentially greater than anything I could achieve as a soloist.

Now in its 11th year, Ariel has built wonderful partnerships with artists, concert presenters, and thought leaders across our industry who share our core values of innovation, interdisciplinary connection, and ongoing, participatory dialogue across diverse communities of people. I therefore find myself in the fortunate position of being able to put out a call for ideas to the larger classical music ecosystem, and having a community of support ready to join the initiative. I’m excited to offer the Ariel AVANT platform as a way to invite and reward the best ideas, to facilitate development opportunities for artists creating innovative projects, and to bring people together across our industry to put momentum behind the evolution of classical music as an art form. This is truly an ‘everyone wins’ opportunity, and I am immensely grateful for the participation of our visionary colleagues for whom I have such enormous respect.”

The initial Ariel AVANT competition category will be Impact Performance, with an application deadline of June 1, 2020. The Impact Performance prize goes to the most compelling interdisciplinary and/or multimedia performance designed to generate productive conversation and offer positive means of action addressing a social justice issue, particularly one related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prioritized to be achieved by 2030. Applying artists should also propose one or more new works (of at least 10 minutes total) which will be commissioned for the performance itself and integral to its implementation. 

Competition Guidelines

In an effort to mitigate implicit bias, the competition will be judged by three tiers of judging panels made up of varying ratios of concert presenters, industry thought leaders, and Ariel roster artists, all from diverse backgrounds. The best ideas win, with four levels of recognition: Grand Prize Winner, Second and Third Place winners, and a Heart winner, an honorable mention for a proposal “with heart.” The grand prize includes a $20,000 touring fund to support five performances with paired engagement events, a $10,000 development and commissioning fund, and a two-week incubation residency for beta testing at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Second and third prizes are honorariums of $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.
The AVANT competitions are open to classical music soloists and chamber ensembles of every background, regardless of age, ensemble instrumentation, race, gender identification, sexual orientation, or any other factor. 
The only eligibility requirements to apply are the following:

  • An active performance history of at least two years
  • Established membership of at least two years (in the case of chamber ensembles)
  • The total number of touring artists/collaborators (including accompanying technicians) must range from 3-6 people
  • Applicants must be able to tour in the United States during the Grand Prize touring period (approximately September through December 2021)
  • Commissioned works must be completed and delivered to artists/collaborators well in advance of the Grand Prize touring period

Impact Performance Competition Timeline:

  • Applications Due: June 1, 2020
  • Semi-Finalists Announced: July 2020
  • Finalists Announced: August 2020
  • Grand Prize Winner Announced: September 2020
  • Approximate Touring Period: September – December 2021

Presenting Partners & Jury

Presenting partners for the Impact Performance competition include Rob Cross (Executive and Artistic Director, Virginia Arts Festival in Norfolk, VA), Eileen Carr (Director, Dayton ArtsLIVE in Dayton, OH), Derek Kwan (Executive Director, Lied Center of Kansas in Lawrence, KS), Fidias Reyes (Director of Arts Engagement, UNCW Office of the Arts in Wilmington, NC), and Aisha Ahmad-Post (Director, Ent Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs, CO).

The jury is also comprised of thought leaders including Samantha Pollack (Director of Programming, Washington Performing Arts in Washington DC), Alain Barker (Director, Music Entrepreneurship and Career Development, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, IN), Lecolion Washington (Executive Director, Community Music Center of Boston in Boston, MA), Ben Dietschi (Senior Consultant at DeVos Institute of Arts Management in Washington, DC), and Nina Moe (Operations/Data/Finance at The Lynch Foundation in Boston, MA), as well as an artist jury to include violinist Francesca Anderegg (Northfield, MN), composer Reinaldo Moya (Northfield, MN), pianist Erika Ribeiro (São Paulo, Brazil), and the Tesla Quartet (New York, NY).