CSU director of orchestras, Wes Kenney, selected as an HONORED ARTISTS of The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts
Jan. 7, 2021, Danbury, Connecticut—The American Prize is the nation's most comprehensive series of contests in the musical arts. The American Prize is nonprofit, unique in scope and structure, and is designed to evaluate, recognize and reward the best performers, composers, conductors, ensembles and directors in the United States, at professional, college/university, community and school levels, based on submitted recordings. There is no live competition.
Founded in 2010 and now celebrating its tenth anniversary, The American Prize has awarded nearly $100,000 in prizes in all categories since its creation. Thousands of artists representing all fifty states have derived benefit from their participation in the contests of The American Prize.
Honored Artists of The American Prize are individuals (or ensembles) who have proven themselves to be artists of "sustained excellence" over a number of seasons as laureates in the competitions.
The 2020-21 HONORED ARTISTS of The American Prize are:
- Jennifer Bellor, composer, Las Vagas, NV
- Gerald Gurss, composer and conductor, St. Paul, MN
- Wes Kenney, conductor, Fort Collins/Denver, CO
- Christine Steyer, soprano, arts producer, Chicago, IL
- Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra, Peter Wilson, conductor, Waynesboro, VA
- Clare Demer, soprano, Tucson, AZ—Career Encouragement Award
About Wes Kenney
The 2007 Grand Prize Winner of the Varna (Bulgaria) International Conducting Competition, a winner of the Ernst Bacon Memorial Prize for excellence in performance of American Music, and now an American Prize Winner for best orchestral performance in the Youth Orchestra Division, Wes Kenney is celebrating his 17th season as Music Director of the Fort Collins (Colorado) Symphony and Director of Orchestras at Colorado State University. Named in 2004 to an additional post as Music Director of Opera Fort Collins, he currently conducts three professional operatic productions as well as numerous orchestra concerts and dance performances each season throughout Northern Colorado. Wes Kenney is also in his seventh season with Denver Young Artist Orchestra—the premier youth orchestra in the state of Colorado—an orchestra recognized by the city of Denver for outreach, as well as both the 2017 Ernst Bacon Memorial prize for the performance of contemporary music from the American Prize competition. He has led that orchestra on two European tours and anchored two festivals at Carnegie Hall.
Mr. Kenney’s guest conducting activities include the Acadiana Symphony (LA), Alabama Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Colorado Symphony, Dubuque Symphony, Lafayette (IN) Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, New Mexico Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Riverside Symphonia, Savannah Symphony, and the Virginia Symphony. International guest conducting includes performances with the Changwon (South Korea) Philharmonic where he will return next June, Vietnam National Symphony (Hanoi), Vidin State Philharmonic, Stara Zagora Opera Company in Bulgaria as well as the Edinburgh (Scotland) Music Festival.
Mr. Kenney has also enjoyed success directing opera, ballet and musical theater. Previous positions include Music Director of the Virginia Ballet Theater, Co-Principal Conductor of the Oakland Lyric Opera, and Guest Conductor with Universal Ballet Korea. Since 2004 he has conducted productions of Carmen, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Sweeney Todd, Turn of the Screw, Barber of Seville, Madama Butterfly, Cenerentola, Rigoletto, Tosca, Otello, Die Zauberflote, Die Fledermaus, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Street Scene, La Boheme, Orfeo, Pagliacci, Cavelleria Rusticana, Falstaff, Turandot, Marriage of Figaro, Serse, The Merry Widow, Aida, Don Giovanni, and Tenderland. In addition, he has conducted over one hundred fifty performances of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Firebird, and many other dance works.
In six seasons as the Virginia Symphony’s Associate Conductor, Mr. Kenney appeared more than 350 times with that orchestra where he was responsible for programming and conducting Pops, Family and Young People’s Concerts. During his tenure with the Virginia Symphony, he was also invited to guest conduct the Williamsburg Symphonia, Virginia Chorale, Norfolk Chamber Consort and Virginia Waterfront International Arts Festival.
Named Educator of the Year by the Colorado Chapter of the American String Teachers Association in 2008, Mr. Kenney enjoys working with talented young people in his position as Director of Orchestras at Colorado State University and has served as Guest Conductor with the Alabama, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Virginia All-State Orchestras. Awarded the prestigious Carmen Dragon Conducting Prize in 1992, Wes Kenney is a founder of the CSU Summer Master of Music Education with an emphasis in conducting program, now in its 12th year.
He was recently a guest lecturer at the Conductor’s Institute held at Bard College in upstate New York, teaching alongside the late Harold Farberman and American Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leon Botstein.
Mr. Kenney is a past president of the Conductors Guild, a 2000 member service organization to the conducting profession. He currently is on the Guild’s advisory board. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California and San Francisco State University. Additional studies include three years as a fellow at the Conductors Institute, several American Symphony Orchestra League and Conductors Guild Workshops, and the Sandpoint Festival. His teachers include Harold Farberman, Hans Beer, Gunther Schuller, Hans Swarovsky and Miltiardes Carides.
HISTORY of The American Prize HONORED ARTISTS
Several years ago, Maestro David Katz, founder and chief judge of The American Prize, expressed a hope for the competitions "to do more" to advance the arts. The creation of the Honored Artist designation is one way the contests seek to bring additional recognition to laureates the organization deems especially worthy. First awarded in 2014, Honored Artists of The American Prize are now an annual part of The American Prize contest activities, presented as New Year's honors. Honored Artists of The American Prize are awarded in memory of Maestro Katz's father, Abraham R. Katz, a gifted amateur musician, who died in 1999.
The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts grew from the belief that a great deal of excellent music being made in this country goes unrecognized and unheralded, not only in our major cities, but all across the country: in schools and churches, in colleges and universities, and by community and professional musicians.
With the performing arts in America marginalized like never before, The American Prize seeks to fill the gap that leaves excellent artists and ensembles struggling for visibility and viability. The American Prize recognizes and rewards the best America produces, without bias against small city versus large, or unknown artist versus well-known.
David Katz is the chief judge of The American Prize. Professional conductor, award-winning composer, playwright, actor and arts advocate, he is author of MUSE of FIRE, the acclaimed one-man play about the art of conducting. Joining Katz in selecting winners of The American Prize is a panel of judges as varied in background and experience as we hope the winners of The American Prize will be. Made up of distinguished musicians representing virtually every region of the country, the group includes professional vocalists, conductors, composers and pianists, tenured professors, and orchestra, band and choral musicians.
“Most artists may never win a Grammy award, or a Pulitzer, or a Tony, or perhaps ever even be nominated,” Katz said, “but that does not mean that they are not worthy of recognition and reward. Quality in the arts is not limited to a city on each coast, or to the familiar names, or only to graduates of a few schools. It is on view all over the United States, if you take the time to look for it. The American Prize exists to encourage and herald that excellence.”
By shining a light on nationally recognized achievement, winners of The American Prize receive world-class bragging rights to use in promotion right at home. “If The American Prize helps build careers, or contributes to local pride, or assists with increasing the audience for an artist or ensemble, builds the donor base, or stimulates opportunities or recruitment for winning artists and ensembles, then we have fulfilled our mission,” Katz said.
The American Prize is administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit performing arts organization based in Danbury, Connecticut.