TCNJ Wind Ensemble and Choirs were named the winner of The American Prize Ernst Bacon Memorial for the Performance of American Music for their world-premiere performance of Rollo Dilworth’s “Weather: Stand The Storm,” with text by Claudia Rankine.
The American Prize is unique as it recognizes talented performing artists, directors, ensembles and composers at various levels: professional, college/university, community and high school.
The Wind Ensemble and Choirs’ specific win was under the College/University Ensemble and Conductor division. ConcertoNet.com has lauded the choirs as “excellent” for its “superlative voices,” while New York Arts has commended them as being “entirely in control.”
When asked for a quote to encompass his feelings on receiving this award, Professor of Music and Director of Choirs John Leonard said that his quote from being a finalist still speaks true now that they have won.
“This honor is all the more special for us knowing how much our student musicians poured their hearts and souls into learning and performing ‘Weather’,” he said. “This piece not only lives on through the numerous performances that it continues to receive across our country but most especially in the hearts of our campus community where it began.”
The college community experienced the world premiere of Philadelphia-based composer Dilworth’s arrangement during two performances in late October 2021. The poem by Rankine, an acclaimed author, poet and professor of creative writing at New York University, inspired Dilworth to write and compose the piece.
Rankine’s poem explores the dynamic context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which coincided with the tragic murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests, offering a thought-provoking reflection on the complex intersection of racial injustice and the pandemic in 2020.
“As the winner of The American Prize, we — the students, faculty and staff in the Department of Music — continue to realize our collective hope with this piece: that it is truly making a lasting and significant positive impact on the struggle for justice and equity for ALL people across our nation,” Leonard said.
Looking ahead, the college community and those involved in the creation of “Weather” have high hopes for its continued impact. It stands as a symbol of resilience, unity, and the power of music to convey important messages.
“Being named winners of [this award] represents a tremendous point of pride for the Department of Music, School of the Arts and Communication, the college as a whole, and the entire state of New Jersey,” said Associate Professor of Music and Director of Bands Eric Laprade. “It is a wonderful reminder of the vibrancy and relevance of the creative work we engage in here at TCNJ.”
– Riley Eisenbeil ’24