To excel in multiple disciplines outside of their majors is the norm for most William & Mary students.
For 70 musicians, a majority of whom are not music majors, their hard work and talent recently paid off in a nationally recognized music competition. The William & Mary Symphony Orchestra received third place with the American Prize, considered to be the country’s most comprehensive and robust series of competitions for the classical arts.The group won for a Brahms and Tchaikovsky performance they submitted last year; the awards were not announced until recently.
David Grandis, director of orchestras and professor of music, is at the helm of William & Mary’s classical music ensemble. Since joining the faculty at William & Mary in 2013, Grandis and the symphony orchestra have participated in the American Prize — and have placed every year. This year, however, the symphony orchestra moved from a finalist to a ranked place.
“Since they are very smart, they are very well trained,” said Grandis.
Grandis admires the students’ passion for music beyond their own focuses within their majors.
“They want to maybe be doctors or any kind of scientist; I have a lot of STEM majors, a huge amount of STEM majors. They still have a passion for music,” he said.
The American Prize reaches beyond the typical scope of musicality. Competitions vary in discipline, from composition and conducting to voice and instrumental soloists. William & Mary has participated since 2014 in the orchestra category with Brahm’s fourth symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Rococo variations.
The magnitude of the third place win rests largely on the fact that the university competes against other schools and conservatories that specialize in music.
“We fight against people like Peabody Institute and Julliard,” said Grandis, emphasizing the raw talent possessed by his students.
With internationally-recognized judges from across the globe who specialize in their respected disciplines, competing for this prize means meeting the standard set by incredibly knowledgeable and talented musicians and conductors.
For Grandis and the symphony orchestra, competing in the American Prize is not just about the money. Only boasting a $500 prize, the American Prize brings national recognition from professional musicians and conductors from across the country.
“It’s more than monetary,” said Grandis. “It’s a question of being acknowledged by professionals and [that they] say you do good work. That is important.”
Grandis has already submitted William & Mary’s repertoire for next year’s competition since the American Prize usually requires a yearlong turnaround for judging.
“The next goal is to try to get second or first prize,” said Grandis.
To hear the William & Mary Symphony Orchestra, check out its fall concert on Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Jamestown High School. The concert is free for William & Mary students.