JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The Chopin Society of Atlanta and guests gathered at the Country Club of the South to raise a glass and write a check to the budding next generation of concert musicians.
Guest of honor Victor Ashe, the former ambassador to Poland, was an amusing and informative speaker. WABE-FM radio host John Lemley was as smooth in his delivery as emcee to the evening as he is on the radio. But the evening unquestionably belonged to the young musicians of the evening: Waka Mizutani, Emilia Folkert, sister Eliza Folkert and Anthony Wang.
Their program of mostly Chopin classics mesmerized the some 200 guests for the evening.
When the honorable Victor Ashe rose to speak, his first words were for the amazing students who performed so well.
Ashe was the longest-serving presidentially appointed ambassador in the country’s history, serving five-and-a-half years, and was the only such ambassador to serve past the term of the president (George W. Bush) who appointed him and into the term of the successor (Barack Obama).
Ashe, also a five-term mayor of Knoxville, Tenn., explained how one becomes a presidentially appointed ambassador, which is to say slowly and with little information. Ashe knew Bush personally, which is one way to wrangle an appointment. The other is to be an extremely large contributor.
While Ashe passed off his acquaintanceship with Bush as something akin to arms’ length, he did let it pass that Bush broached the idea of an ambassadorship while talking on Air Force One and had it confirmed by Bush himself at one of the 18 consecutive Christmas parties the president has to reward party faithful.
But the real purpose of the Chopin Society – beyond promoting the legacy of Poland’s greatest composer Fryderyk Chopin and advancing the appreciation and understanding of his legacy – is to enrich the musical education of children.
“We support the belief that music increases young people’s intellectual abilities and stirs the imagination,” said Chopin Society Atlanta President Dorota Lato. “That is why we sponsor awards for local piano competition winners. We also sponsor concert opportunities for young musicians at our events and donate concert tickets for music students and our after-concert essayists.”
This year’s essay winners were honored, including first-place winner Nicholas Sousa, second-prize winner Kasia Standish and third-place winner Mateusz Golebiewski.