By James Ginsburg
Guest Columnist
Chicago, IL, USA

Coming up on the 30th anniversary of Cedille Records, we paused to reflect on how our mission has grown from recording and releasing the music of Chicago’s finest classical artists to also actively promoting careers. I thought about soloists like violinists Jennifer Koh and Rachel Barton Pine and ensembles such as Eighth Blackbird and Pacifica Quartet. Cedille is honored to have promoted these extraordinary artists from the start of their award-winning careers. Scores of artists have made their debut on Cedille Records, and we become personally invested in each of those artists and their music.

James Ginsburg in the Studio

Inspired by this reflection, I am pleased to announce the creation of a new Emerging Artist Competition to help celebrate our 30th year of identifying and elevating the careers of Chicago artists. The Emerging Artist Competition will be open to individual musicians and ensembles of up to six people that reside in or hail from the Chicago metro area. The winner will record and release an album on Cedille Records.

I founded Cedille Records in 1989 with the vision of making distinctive classical recordings featuring excellent Chicago-area musicians. Cedille filled an important niche as the only Chicago-based classical record label, and to this day continues to fulfill its mission of recording original programs developed by artists with enlightening and distinctive interpretations. Cedille’s artists and albums are regularly honored with the highest accolades, including GRAMMY® awards.

The eventual winner of the Emerging Artist Competition will join an impressive roster of artists that includes Jennifer Koh, Rachel Barton Pine, Eighth Blackbird, the Dover Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, and Anthony McGill. Violist Matthew Lipman, whose debut album came out in February, is a recent example of a Cedille artist in the beginning of a career.

Jennifer Koh

Taking note of this immensely talented Cedille roster, we decided to open a competition to pick the next Cedille young artist whose career we can promote from the start.

Matthew Lipman - Ascent

The application for the Emerging Artist Competition officially became available on February 15, 2019, and the deadline for application submissions is August 1, 2019. Individual performers and ensembles (sextet or smaller) who have not appeared as the featured performer on another commercially-released CD are eligible to apply; the competition is not open to composers or conductors. The maximum age limit for individual performers is 35-years-old as of the application open date. For ensembles, the average age of ensemble members should not exceed 35 and no individual player may exceed 40 years of age. There is no minimum age limit. All individual performers and at least 50% of ensemble players must reside in or come from the Chicago metro area (defined as the following counties: Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will). No individual may appear on more than one application; for example, if applying as a soloist, an individual may not also apply as a member of an ensemble.

Rachel Barton Pine

To apply for the Emerging Artist Competition, artists must submit a resume; a written goal statement, including an explanation of their connection to Chicago; a list of any commercially-released recordings on which they have participated (not as the featured performer); a concept and suggested repertoire for an album; and unedited video of the artist(s) performing two contrasting pieces, which need not be the same as the repertoire prepared for later rounds of the competition or the album concept.

After applications are screened by a panel of Cedille Records board members, the competition semi-finals and finals will take place as live concerts over concurrent days in Chicago in May 2020. The concerts will be open to the public. Semi-finals will include up to 10 contestants, who will prepare an hour of music from which judges will select 15 minutes to be performed. The final round will include up to five contestants playing 30 minutes of music total, including two contrasting works, selected by the contestants themselves. Semi-final and final performances will be judged by a panel of five judges, to be named at a later date, comprising prominent musicians and industry professionals.

It is an important moment for the Cedille label. We are excited to launch this new initiative to welcome another amazing Chicago artist to the roster.

(Header photo of James Ginsburg credit: Elliot Mandel; Studio photo of James Ginsburg credit: Nathan J. Silverman; Jennifer Koh photo credit: Juergen Frank; photo of Rachel Barton Pine credit: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)


James Ginsburg is the Founder, President and Producer of Cedille Records.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.