Thursday, June 14, 2012

Behind the Scenes at the Falletta Comp: The Other Conductor

By Suzanne Kashuba

Celil_on stage

Left: JoAnn Falletta, music director of the BPO; Celil Refik Kaya, winner of the
2012 Falletta Competition; Christye Peterson, competition manager

Right: Celil Refik Kaya of Turkey captured first-place honors in this
prestigious classical guitar competition.

With the winner named and the eight international contestants heading home with memories of Buffalo, N.Y., the 2012 JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition is history. But what did it take to make it happen?

From rehearsals and receptions to sightseeing and community performances, the Falletta Competition is one whirlwind week of activity. The official program lists 54 committee members who played active roles in organizing, marketing, fund raising, broadcasting and selling tickets. Numerous others performed specialized tasks – from tuning pianos to photographing to catering meals.

They must all work together as an orchestra, each lending a special talent and role. But they still need a conductor – someone to coordinate their myriad and diverse contributions. This year, that person was Christye Peterson, the Falletta Competition manager. As the one person most responsible for the success of the 2012 competition, Peterson took on an enormous effort. I asked her to reflect on this challenging, though, I’m sure, gratifying experience.

  • Describe your role in all of this. What does the manager do?
CP: In many ways it is like being the conductor of an orchestra. My job is to pull all the players together into one seamless piece, and also be the conduit for information, to do the best I can to insure that everyone knows what’s going on.
  • What are some of the components of the competition?
CP: Some of the components of this competition were underwriting, marketing, fundraising, public relations, event planning, competitor coordination and new this year, the terrific two-night semifinals TV show broadcast.
  • When did the planning begin? What was the sequence of activity?
CP: The planning really started after the last competition ended in 2010, but I came on board at the end of September, 2011. Honestly it just feels like yesterday. It has gone really fast. I worked part-time for several months, but after January 2012, the event really started ramping up with lots of inquiries from competitors and moving forward on Guitar Days.
  • What were some of the greatest challenges?
CP: I think for me the greatest challenges came in the week before and week of the event. From Memorial Day weekend on, the biggest challenge was keeping all the balls in the air and not letting anything slip. During the week of the competition, there were events every day and evening, from dinners and interviews to finishing signage and banners, to writing scripts -- everything leading up to the finals at Kleinhans Music Hall.
  • What was the highlight?
CP: Well, every day of competition week was a highlight – but one of the competitors, who did not reach the finals, wrote an email to me yesterday. He said, “I know I should feel bad that I did not advance to the finals, but everything about last week was so perfect and you took such good care of all of us – it was just a wonderful week.”
  • Why are people attracted to this type of event and to classical guitar music in general?
CP: I think everyone loves a competition – look at the number of competitions on TV! Classical guitar music has a passionate following – it is such a beautiful instrument and it takes so much practice, skill and self-sacrifice to become accomplished like the competitors were last week.
  • WNED-TV broadcast the semifinals live for the first time this year. What did this add to the competition?
CP:  First of all, it was a near perfect broadcast – producer Lynne Bader, director Joe Cannizzaro and many more people worked months to bring this broadcast about. What it really does is give the competition and the classical guitar much-needed exposure in WNY. And with a live audience, it was electric. It was live TV! We heard many, many positive comments from the community at large.
  • What kind of music do you like to listen to?
CP: I love Classical music. Also, “The great American song book.” I admit to being a gleek – I love musicals, music from the 60’s and 70’s and actually there is contemporary music I like too!
  • How did it feel to be in Kleinhan’s when the winner was named?
CP: Honestly, I felt sick to my stomach. It is so hard to see anyone lose because they are all so very talented.
  • What was your impression of the guitarists?
CP: Because I had known who was going to compete since early April, and had been emailing all of them, I felt I knew them when they arrived two weekends ago. But it was even better than that. They were so friendly, so professional and so willing to do what was required of them last week. Plus, they all love Buffalo! They were very impressed with the waterfront, they loved Wegman’s and they felt that they were respected as artists.
  • What kind of feedback did you receive from the contestants and the judges about the competition and about Buffalo?
CP: Honestly, nothing but praise. The judges were” blown away” by everything and the competitors would like to have some sort of event every year. One of the competitors said he would come back next year and do a recital at no charge to the competition to help keep interest high.
  • What does this competition do for the community?
CP: It exposes the community to up-and-coming young guitarists, and promotes Classical music. Plus, this is a unique event, so much so that it is talked about by Classical guitar people all over the world. and it is another way to honor the amazing JoAnn Falletta and tell her how much the community loves her! We have also created eight  goodwill ambassadors who cannot stop talking about their fabulous week.
  • You’ve just managed the 2012 Falletta Competition. What are you going to do now?
CP: First of all, I will miss working with such a wonderful group of people at WNED and the BPO. Everyone wanted this to succeed and really did everything in their power to make it happen. Also, the Duo, Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio, our artistic directors, spent countless hours on this event. They are wonderful.

What am I doing next? Enjoy a few days off, but I am very involved with a program call Snack Packs for Kids that provides food on weekends for children who may not have enough to eat. I have been given so much so it is my joy to help with efforts like this that work on relieving rural poverty.

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