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Volume 24, Number 8 — August 2017

Former scholarship winner has international career

Craig Combs in 1975 (Feazel Studio photo)
Craig Combs in 1975 (Feazel Studio photo)

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | September 30, 2014

When you ask The Bristol Music Club members about former scholarship winners who have successful music careers, they mention Craig Combs, who won the competition in 1975 and 1977.

Combs says that winning "was a form of validation that I had achieved a level of playing that could be recognized regionally. As a result of winning the competition, I began to think seriously about a professional career. I suppose you could say that TBMC was a catalyst for inspiring me to continue to develop my musical skills after leaving Bristol."

Club members continued to support Combs after he left Bristol to study at the Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Virginia, and then at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He holds a bachelor's degree in piano performance from Shenandoah and a master's of music in piano performance and doctor of musical arts from Eastman.

"While pursuing my degrees before email, text and social media, I would receive letters and phone calls of interest from my personal teachers and on occasion other club members interested in my professional life," Combs says. "When I returned to Bristol in 2004 to establish The Paramount Chamber Players, the members of TBMC were the first ones to say "yes.' Members of the club have served on the board and supported the ensemble financially. For nearly 10 years, TBMC has given a public reception for our concerts presented in Bristol. And when I approached the club to collaborate to give a deserving student an opportunity to perform with The Paramount Chamber Players, there was no hesitation. The answer was yes. Even after 36 years, The Bristol Music Club continues to be a very important part of my musical career.

"TBMC is a sophisticated and enlightened group who understand the unique set of skills, personality and talent that it takes to present music at the highest levels whether in Bristol or elsewhere in the world. The evidence is in its students who play regionally, nationally and internationally. Just since 2008 when The Paramount Chamber Players began collaborating with TBMC to present The Paramount Chamber Players Award, I have seen students sent to several important music schools and universities, including Juilliard. The club also supports the development of musicians in the local area with equal pride and commitment. The support the club gives to TPCP is a good example of that support."

What did Combs play in those two competitions that so impressed the judges? "I had to look this up but fortunately kept my judge's comments from both years. In 1975, I played "Brer Rabbit' from "Fireside Tales op. 61' by Edward MacDowell and a Two-part Invention by J.S. Bach. In 1977, I performed the Allegretto and Presto Agitato from Ludwig Van Beethoven's Piano Sonata no. 14 op. 27, no. 2 also known as the "Moonlight Sonata' and the "Rhapsody in Blue' by George Gershwin."

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