NORTH FULTON, Ga. — Musicians and violin students from across the globe descended upon Johns Creek and Sandy Springs in July for the inaugural Atlanta Festival Academy.
Johns Creek resident and music instructor William Pu wanted to expand the arts scene in the Atlanta region in a way that could attract an international audience. Pu joined forces with his wife Amy Change and fellow violinist Wei Lin to create a 9-day classical music festival.
“One of the things Atlanta really needs is vibrant cultural life,” Pu said. “So I thought, because my background is in youth education, I would develop more cultural youth activities to promote, to raise the level and meet the need of the community.”
From July 22 to July 30, 70 violin and cello students participated in master classes, lectures, workshops, private lessons and three concerts. About 20 of the students came from outside Georgia, with many from Asia and Europe.
“This touches me and my wife every single time,” Pu said. “Through music making, people who don’t know each other, who don’t speak the same language, are able to become friends and make something beautiful together.”
Even when countries are at odds politically, children can become friends through music, he said.
“These children will grow up one day,” Pu said. “They’ll be the leader of their countries, and programs like this can build friendships between countries.”
The summer institute mostly took place at Johns Creek United Methodist Church. Pu, who has worked with the church for the past four years on the Atlanta Youth Orchestra summer intensive, thanked the venue for hosting the festival.
“They’re absolutely sincere, wonderful, and with an absolutely beautiful facility,” Pu said. “It’s very fortunate that they’re supporting us, and I hope they’ll be supporting us for years to come.”
During the Grand Finale, held at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, students performed alongside faculty and world-renowned performers. The headliner was 11-year-old Singaporean violin prodigy, Chloe Chua, the junior winner of the 2018 Menuhin Competition. This was her first performance in the U.S., Pu said.
The Atlanta Festival Academy was made possible through partnerships with the Lin Yao Ji Music Foundation of China, the Menuhin Competition and the Harpa International Music Academy in Iceland.
Four students who participated in the Atlanta festival were given a scholarship to the Harpa International Music Academy for a string quartet intensive this August. The students will learn under the guidance of Sibbi Bernhardsson, a world-renowned string quartet violinist.
Pu said he hopes the festival will continue for many years and continue to grow.
“I think this is going to be really great,” he said. “We all as a community should be really proud of it. I hope next year we can make it bigger and better.”
For more information about the Atlanta Festival Academy, visit atlantafestivalacademy.org.