The Sag Harbor American Music Festival is launching an important program to help develop young musical talent from the five East End towns called the Young Musician Initiative. It is an awards program for talented musicians from Riverhead, Southold, Shelter Island, Southampton, and East Hampton towns. Festival founder Kelly Connaughton Dodds, in an interview with Hamptons.com, explained the genesis of the program, along with many of its salient points.
Connaughton Dodds said, “The festival itself was founded over ten years ago. Because of COVID-19, we canceled our tenth anniversary, but we are going to do it this year. The Sag Harbor American Music Festival is happening at the end of September, and as a non-profit, our board has always wanted to do more with the youth in our community to help develop young musicians. Therefore, we have donated a substantial amount of money to local schools in Sag Harbor, for example, The Pierson Music Program for instruments, music software, and even computers, iPads.”
She went on to explain a little more about the program. “It combines not only support, but we also have a cash prize for professional development they can use for things like developing their website, or buying a new instrument, basically what they need in that moment.”
Several community members are lending their expertise in support of The Young Musician Initiative. “We have people like Michael Clarke of LTV offering help producing a music video for them. Not only do they get the experience of shooting a music video, when it’s all over they get to use that to promote themselves,” she explained. “They will also get the opportunity to be paired with an established musician as a mentor. If the young musician is a soloist or vocalist, we would identify someone that is in a similar genre, style, or something that connects them to a professional musician that they can meet up with, that can help develop them, if they need lessons or something like that.”
Her excitement and the extent of Connaughton Dodds’ commitment to this initiative is inspiring. About what else will be available to the rising stars, she noted, “It may be more of mentoring on how you transition to a musician going on the road, finding someone who is a touring musician to help them with the basics of that. So, it’s really wide ranging. We’ll also do a paid performance, so they get gig experience, and the performance will be at the Music Festival in September, and the best overall performance will get a recording with Grammy-winning producer Cynthia Daniels, of Monk Music Studios, who has worked with everyone, who is out here along with a lot of noted people. She is also on our board.”
The categories for awards consist of: Vocal, Instrumental (solo or group), Band, Composition/Songwriting, with musicians allowed to apply in more than one category. There will be an award for the Best Overall Performance. Connaughton Dodds pointed out that the sash award for professional development will be $500 to $1,000 per person/group, depending on the total number of awardees. “The overall best performance winner will get, in addition to everything else, they will get a recording in Cynthia’s studio, that again, they get the basic experience of recording with a professional like her, and then having it promoted and then being able to use that as tool to promote themselves,” she noted.
Successful musicians from the past include Sara Hartman, who was a junior at Pierson High School when she was invited to perform at the Festival. Connaughton Dodds shared, “Her talent and drive was an inspiration to us. We have always been determined to find better ways to help young musicians.” Sofia D’Angelo is another musician that was featured. Connaughton Dodds explained, “We featured Sophia many times over the last six years at the Festival. The first time she was still in high school. Both Sara and Sofia are talented songwriters as well as performers. It is important to our mission to give people like them the spotlight!”
To enter, one just has to fill out the application form on the Festival’s website. The cutoff date is Wednesday, June 30, 2021.
The festival is sponsored by a host of local businesses, but the cash awards are sponsored primarily by Jackson Dodds & Co., which has been the main sponsor of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival for seven years.
To sign up, visit sagharbormusic.org.