Budd looks forward to carrying the torch
by W. Winston Skinner
Like Charles Wadsworth, Courtenay Budd grew up in Newnan and loves music.
When Wadsworth began a series of chamber music concerts in their hometown, he invited top musicians to come to Newnan. Soon, one of them was Budd.
Budd first sang at a Wadsworth concert around 1998 – soon after she finished her graduate degree at Westminster Choir College. “It wasn’t the first concert – but one of the first concerts I ever did,” she said.
Now with Wadsworth’s stepping down from leadership of the concerts, Budd will be directing the 2014 concert – being held Saturday at Wadsworth Auditorium in downtown Newnan.
“It’s a challenge when I start to think I might be stepping into his shoes,” Budd said. “Then I remember that that’s impossible. Everybody recognizes that’s an impossible task. There’s no way of replacing Charles.”
Scheduled to join Budd for Saturday’s concert are some familiar faces to Newnan audiences: violinist Chee-Yun, cellist Edward Aaron, clarinetist Todd Palmer and pianist Jeewon Park.
There also will be one newcomer, Andrew Armstrong, a pianist Budd knows and admires. “I met him through Todd Palmer and Ed Aaron,” she said.
Budd said Armstrong is a great talent and someone who has performed with the others who will be part of this year’s concert. “He’s always had a likeable presence on stage, and I think he’ll be a great addition for the team,” she said.
This year’s concert experience is one that will retain the warmth local music lovers have come to expect – and enjoy. “The only big change is that we won’t have Charles up on the stage,” Budd said.
Wadsworth “plans to be there,” Budd said. “It’s been bittersweet for him. He likes to be a part of things musically.”
The 2014 concert will – in many ways – be a tribute to Wadsworth, his considerable body of work and his sharing of his gifts with his hometown.
“He’s meant so much,” Budd said, “to all of us.” Budd spoke of “the legacy he leaves Newnan – and everywhere else – and how vital and sustainable it is.” Wadsworth and his wife, Susan, founder/director of Young Concert Artists Intl., have nurtured “countless musicians from the earliest stages of their careers,” Budd said. “The other part of his legacy is how he has helped to spread the love of chamber music by putting audiences at ease – while never dumbing down to them. His funny and folksy, quintessentially Newnan style of introducing the music helps people relax, so that we feel less intimidated and better able to experience the music,” she said. “We want to build on what he has given us. Newnan is fertile ground for the arts,” Budd said. “International musicians love to come here because people make them feel so welcome. The people of Newnan want music of the highest caliber and deserve just that.”
Budd will be teaching a master class to local students at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts while she is here. “Whenever I teach a master class I think about how such an experience would have inspired and enlightened me,” she said.
“Musicians get very excited when we see young people in the audiences of our concerts. A whole world can open up to someone who is hearing it for the first time,” Budd said.
“Down the road, I would love to see us extend these opportunities to other, perhaps underserved, communities. Other ideas to explore are introducing new artists and also local artists, bringing in some new music, and possible collaborations with other arts organizations,” Budd said. “There are so many great possibilities.”
General admission tickets for Friends of Wadsworth – The Legacy Continues are $20. Tickets for the event, sponsored by the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission, are available at Let Them Eat Toffee on the downtown Court Square, the downtown Visitors Center in the historic Coweta County Courthouse, Morgan's Jewelers in Ashley Park, and Bank of North Georgia at Thomas Crossroads.
The auditorium itself is special to Budd. She made her stage debut – along with her sister Dorothy – at the Wadsworth Auditorium. They were in “a Dale Lyles-directed production of ‘A Christmas Carol.’” she recalled. “As a little girl I giggled while my daddy sang ‘Rock Around the Clock’ – covered in Christmas lights – for the Follies,” Budd recalled. The auditorium holds “many happy memories.”