I have a love/hate relationship with awards. Sometimes I find them silly; simply attend an event and you receive an award. Sometimes I find them totally frustrating; the criteria so subjective you have a greater chance of winning the lotto then bringing home the “prize’. And occasionally, they are so appropriately awarded that you breathe a sigh of complete satisfaction. Some awards are handed out for a body of work already completed; the touted lifetime achievement awards. They leave me wondering if the person is now off the hook. They never need accomplish anything else in life. Some awards are given in out in anticipation of greatness yet to come. It is for everyone to see if the artist can ever achieve enough to live up to the award. And occasionally, the award does both, it sings of what the artist has already accomplished while speaking to the potential which still lays within.
Recently a friend, neighbor, and colleague of mine, Randy Sabien, was presented with the 2009 Owteno Award from The Viola Foundation, an award that caused me to sigh with great satisfaction and marvel at it’s intent. The Owteno Award is given out to “the applicant most likely to positively impact the viola community at large.” The award is the use of a viola and bow for life, hand selected for the recipient. So why is this award so interesting…It’s because Randy is not a violist. He’s a jazz violinist, a renown jazz violinist and music educator. So why a viola award. In presenting the award, the Viola Foundation stated, ” With your recent appointment as the Chairman of the String Department at McNally Smith College of Music and your long and constantly evolving use of the violin, we believe you are in the best position to advance the viola and its role in alternative music in the years ahead.” How perfect an award is that. It rewards what Randy has already accomplished during a lifetime on the violin and then challenges him to take the potential they see and do it all again with the viola. It’s so beautiful I wish I had thought of it myself.
Just recently Randy picked up his Brian Derber viola and Hartmut Knoll bow from the Claire Givens Violin Shop in Minneapolis. Now I’m waiting for the day when he walks on stage with not one instrument but two. My guess is, I won’t have long to wait.