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$100K grand prize winner announced at U-M's inaugural M-Prize chamber music competition

U-M Men's Glee Club performs "Seven Last Words of the Unarmed"

ANN ARBOR—After two days of semifinals and finals concerts at the University of Michigan, the Calidore String Quartet has won the $100,000 M-Prize, a new chamber music competition hosted by the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

The announcement was made Thursday night at Hill Auditorium after the grand prize gala competition, which also featured senior “open” division winners Yarn/Wire, and senior winds division winners, the Kenari Quartet.

The Calidore String Quartet, an ensemble from New York City, is the 2016 Borletti-Butoni Trust Fellowship recipient, the first American ensemble in the foundation’s history to receive the prestigious career grant.

The quartet members—Jeff Myers and Ryan Meehan (violins), Jeremy Berry (viola) and Estelle Choi (cello)—are currently artists-in-residence and visiting faculty at Stony Brook University-New York. They were appointed to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Two roster for the 2016-19 seasons.

The ensemble has also won grand prizes at the Fischoff, Coleman, Chesapeake and Yellow Springs competitions, and captured top prizes at the 2012 ARD Munich International String Quartet Competition and Hamburg International Chamber Music Competition.

As part of the prize package, the Calidore String Quartet will also be presented by U-M’s University Musical Society in their chamber arts concert series next season. In addition, they will be included in upcoming season programming for Center Stage Strings, Interlochen Presents, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Rockefeller University and University of Florida Performing Arts.

Announced last October, the M-Prize Competition was created to identify and showcase the highest caliber of chamber music ensembles in the world. It received a total of 172 applications from 17 states and 13 countries—officially making it the largest chamber music competition in the nation and world in terms of both prize money and number of applications. Twenty-nine ensembles, comprising 120 artists, participated in the semifinal and final rounds May 18 and 19 at U-M.

The driving force behind the competition is Aaron Dworkin, dean of the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and founder of the Sphinx Organization—the nation’s leading nonprofit for increasing diversity in the classical music world.

Dworkin’s goal for M-Prize is to focus needed attention on chamber music. It is an art form he believes will provide the most vibrant career paths for ensembles comprising conservatory-trained musicians and other performing artists.

Senior winners from three divisions competed at Hill Auditorium on Thursday, May 19 during the grand M-prize gala.

Senior winners from three divisions competed at Hill Auditorium on Thursday, May 19 during the grand M-prize gala. ©/courtesy of Michigan Photography, Daryl Marshke, University of Michigan

“The Calidore String Quartet is a perfect example of the extraordinary talent that we seek to showcase with this competition,” Dworkin said. “We are thrilled with this inaugural year and we are confident that it will develop audiences and awareness for this genre, which has the potential to play such a vital role in the careers of today’s performing artists.

The 15-member international jury was made up of top pedagogues and performers in chamber music, including violinist Rachel Barton Pine, saxophonist Timothy McAllister and jazz drummer/composer John Hollenbeck.

M-Prize is sponsored by U-M’s Office of the Provost and received additional support from an anonymous donor. The goals of the competition are to provide a world-class performance and adjudication platform for chamber arts; to launch and advance the careers of chamber ensembles through prizes, visibility and professional development opportunities; and to evolve the breadth and depth of the chamber arts landscape and associated professional opportunities for exceptional ensembles.

The concert was broadcast on Detroit Public Television and made available to PBS stations throughout the country.

Including the grand prize, a total of $200K in prize money will be distributed among the top three winners in three different categories—strings, woodwinds and “open”—in Junior (ages 18 and under) and Senior (ages 19-35) divisions. The “open” category can feature any instrumentation, including percussion, voice or technology, and music that contains a significant amount of improvisation such as jazz, bluegrass and world music.

M-Prize Finals winners:

Junior Strings

First prize, $5,000: Chimera Quartet

Second prize, $3,000: Vibrante Quartet

Third prize, $2,000: Calliope Trio

Junior Winds

First prize, $5,000: Nonamé Quintet

Second prize, $3,000: Precipice Saxophone Quartet

Third prize, $2,000: KGT

Junior Open

First prize, $5,000: KDJ Trio

Second prize, $3,000: The Percussion Scholarship Group

Senior Strings

First prize, $20,000: Calidore String Quartet*

Second prize, $7,000: Verona String Quartet

Third prize, $3,000: Rolston String Quartet

Senior Winds

First prize, $20,000: Kenari Quartet

Second prize, $7,000: Donald Sinta Quartet

Third prize, $3,000: Axiom Brass

Senior Open

First prize, $20,000: Yarn/Wire

Second prize, $7,000: Foundry

Third prize, $3,000: Alfaia

Senior Grand Prize

Winner, $100,000: Calidore String Quartet (prize money includes the $20,000 from First Prize in Senior Strings division)

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