Friends of Wadsworth
Budd works with students as lead-in for concert
by Celia Shortt
Newnan native and professional opera singer Courtenay Budd gave Coweta high school choral students a valuable opportunity on Friday, through a master class held at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts.
“I have been singing for many years since leaving Newnan, but my heart is still here,” she said.
Budd grew up in Newnan, loves music, and now sings opera professionally. For the master class, Budd worked individually with six students who sang for her. They were accompanied by her colleague Andrew Armstrong.
Armstrong is a pianist who has performed more than 35 concertos and won more than 25 national and international first prizes. He is among the artists who will join Budd for the Friends of Wadsworth concert tonight at Wadsworth Auditorium in Newnan.
Of the six students who sang for her, some had been at previous master classes she had taught, but for Northgate freshman Adam Sprague, Friday’s class was his first.
Sprague sang “Caro Mio Ben,” a popular Italian aria, for Budd and Armstrong.
“Dadgum,” said Budd after Sprague finished. “I can tell by looking at you, you do not know how beautiful that was. Your voice is beautiful, and your performance touching.”
Budd gave Sprague a few pointers, which included breathing and pronunciation techniques.
Another student who sang for Budd was Newnan High School senior Chris Green. Green is playing Javert in NHS’ Fine Arts Musical “Les Miserables.”
He performed one of his pieces from the play, “Stars.” “I remember your voice from last year,” said Budd. “It’s beautiful.”
After his performance, she encouraged Green to let drama in his music build.
“You have a great voice,” she said. “You should let it be as free as possible.”
To all the students, Budd encouraged them to embrace their own sound.
“You are your instrument,” she said. “You do not want to try to sound like someone else.”
The majority of Budd’s advice to all the students was about having the correct breathing techniques and posture for singing.
“You have the breath,” she said to them. “It is a matter of accessing it.”
Budd is directing the 2014 “Friends of Wadsworth – The Legacy Continues” concert at the Wadsworth Auditorium in Newnan.
She first sang with Newnan famous son Charles Wadsworth at a Wadsworth and Friends concert in 1998. “It wasn’t the first concert – but one of the first concerts I ever did,” she said.
Charles Wadsworth retired last year from leading the Newnan series of concerts, and hand-picked Budd to take the helm.
“It’s a challenge when I start to think I might be stepping into his shoes,” she said. “Then I remember that’s impossible. Everybody recognizes that’s an impossible task. There’s no way of replacing Charles.”
Returning to Newnan for tonight’s concert are some of the artists who have performed over the years with Wadsworth: violinist Chee-Yun, cellist Edward Aaron, clarinetist Todd Palmer and pianist Jeewon Park. Armstrong, the pianist who accompanied Budd at the masterclass, will be performing at the concert for the first time.
Budd is striving to keep this year’s concert like ones in the past, with the only major difference being Wadsworth not performing on stage.
Budd said he does “plan to be there,” but knows it will be a bittersweet experience for him, as he loves to be a part of things musically.
Tonight’s concert will be a type of tribute to Wadsworth.
“He’s meant so much,” Budd said, “to all of us.”
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 concert starts at 7:30 p.m.
Friday’s master class was sponsored by Newnan Rotary Club and Cargill.