Wayland music faculty garners national honor

July 11, 2013

PLAINVIEW — While Wayland Baptist University Associate Professor of Collaborative Piano, Dr. Richard Fountain, is thrilled with the national recognition he recently received, he is just as happy to be able to share that recognition with friend and fellow faculty member Dr. Gary Belshaw.

Fountain recently tied for third place with Steven Wilber, of Chattanooga, Tenn., in the American Prize in Piano Performance (Solo) 2013-Professional Division competition. According to its Website, theamericanprize.org, “The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit national competitions in the performing arts providing cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances by ensembles and individuals each year in the United States . . . .”

Fountain explained that participants send in recordings of their performances — either professionally or non-professionally done — and those are judged blindly by a panel of judges.

“They don’t see the name on the recording or anything, they just get the recording and evaluate it,” he said.

The competition is three-tiered, with semifinalists, finalists and then the award winners.

Fountain said he submitted “American Ivory,” the CD he recently recorded that contains several compositions by Belshaw, who is professor of musical composition at the university. It also contains compositions by Edward McDowell, Aaron Copeland and Samuel Barber. A key reason for doing that, he said, was to get credible national exposure for Belshaw’s pieces.

“I feel like I get his music out and get some more recognition so it’s not just about my playing or my work that I’m submitting to people,” Fountain said. “I feel like I have a great chance to help him become more widely known around the country and beyond as a great composer.”

Fountain pointed out that Belshaw was just as excited as he was when word came that the pianist had placed in the competition.

The composer agreed.

“It’s a huge boost for me,” he said, adding with a smile, “In fact, I keep staying awake nights trying to figure out what’s the best way to exploit that.”

Belshaw said once Fountain — who has both doctor of musical arts and master of music degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a bachelor of music degree from Taylor University in Upland, Ind. — was brought in as a faculty member at Wayland, it was only natural the two collaborate.

“His performances (on the CD) were first rate. If I had recorded those myself, they would not have been the quality that it was when he played them,” Belshaw said.

Fountain said that beyond the recognition the competition brought him as a pianist and Belshaw as a composer it also is a boost for the music program at Wayland. He pointed out that the American Prize competitions, which were established in 2009, make use of social media marketing through Facebook and Twitter, among other social media outlets. Additionally, in Fountain’s personal bio that is displayed on the competition’s Website, both Wayland and Plainview are mentioned prominently, and he said that it should be good publicity for the school to have its faculty involved in prominent competitions such as the American Prize.

Dr. Ann Stutes, dean of the School of Music at Wayland, echoed that sentiment. She pointed out that in addition to providing Wayland music students with a quality professional product after which they could pattern their own creative efforts, the fact that Fountain’s performances of Belshaw’s works placed in the competition shows that the school’s faculty can compete at a high level.