Project to diversify classical recordings wins 2021 Local that Works contest

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Adam Eccleston performs a flute solo

Dmitri Von Klein/All Classical Portland

Adam Eccleston, All Classical Portland's professional artist in residence and chair of the Recording Inclusivity Initiative selection panel, performs at All Classical's Lovefest Concert Feb. 19, 2020.

All Classical Portland’s Recording Inclusivity Initiative was voted winner of the 2021 Local that Works contest during a Tuesday webinar. 

The public radio station will receive a $20,000 prize. Additionally, for the first time in the contest’s five-year history, the other finalists will each receive $5,000. The contest is a collaboration of Current and Public Media Futures and is funded by the Wyncote Foundation.

“I can’t even tell you how powerful this investment is from Local that Works,” Suzanne Nance, CEO of All Classical Portland, told Current following the announcement. “This award, it’s transformative.” 

Webinar viewers voted to select the winner. The other finalists were The Oaklandside’s Mission Metrics; “Mass. Election Prep: Become an Informed Voter in 7 Days,” a newsletter from El Planeta and WBUR in Boston; and the News and Information Community Exchange (N.I.C.E.), an initiative from WHYY in Philadelphia. 

A fifth finalist, Wisconsin Watch and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, withdrew from the competition. Their project was News414, a text-messaging service to provide essential information to Milwaukee residents and the broader public. (Read more about the finalists and the 20 semifinalists.)

All Classical’s Recording Inclusivity Initiative, which launched this year, seeks to diversify the playlists of classical music stations by producing original recordings of works by composers from underrepresented communities. The station chose to record works from five composers — three living and two posthumous — from dozens of nominations. The recordings are expected to be released early next year, Nance said.

“RII is doing something groundbreaking,” Adam Eccleston, All Classical Portland’s artist-in-residence and chair of the RII selection panel, said in a video about the project. “I think one of the main things that’s beautiful about RII is that it involves the community, that it looks for the voices of our community so that we can continue to uplift and make change in this genre.”

One of the project’s goals is to encourage other stations to take on similar recording efforts. Nance said that the station’s winnings from the Local that Works contest will help fund the national rollout of the project, which will begin in January. The station plans to hire a project manager for the national rollout and assemble a how-to kit to provide stations with resources to replicate the project.

Nance said All Classical Portland has met with about 14 other stations about starting their own recording projects. 

During the webinar, Nance announced that Parma Recordings has signed on to distribute the recordings made by the project. Additionally, the Sorel Organization provided funding for the project to create a database that will give stations free access to the recordings for broadcast.  

The database will include the recordings made by All Classical in addition to recordings made by other public radio stations. All Classical will begin building the database next year, Nance said.

“At the end of the day, this is all about the composers and the musicians that have been historically excluded,” Nance said during the webinar after the prize was announced. “And this moment truly belongs to them.”

Watch the webinar:

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