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A Saxophonist to Watch

Doctoral candidate Ryan Muncy receives Edes Prize for emerging artists

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June 15, 2010 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Saxophonist Ryan Muncy takes a risk every time he steps on stage.

But Muncy will complete his doctorate at Northwestern Univeristy's Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music this summer with a buffer against the financial risks that emerging artists face, particularly in this shaky economy.

A founding member of the Anubis Saxophone Quartet, Muncy is one of four Chicago-area recipients of the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists. The foundation designed the prize to jumpstart artists' careers, mainly requiring that each of the $30,000 awards be used for artistic development in the 12-month period following receipt.

For Muncy, the Edes Prize will allow him to manage a quartet that pushes traditional boundaries in its focus on music of the last 30 years. The timing of the prize couldn't have been better. Upon receiving his doctorate in the summer, Muncy will lose access to many of the tools of his trade.

"I've had access to all the equipment I've needed," he said. "But when school starts in the fall, my resources would have become very limited."

The soon-to-be doctor of music in performance will be well equipped to make the transition from the academy to the serious business of making his musical dreams come true. Muncy will use the Edes Prize to organize concerts in the United States and possibly in Europe and research composers and performers to enhance the development of Anubis.

Besides Northwestern, DePaul University, the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago each selected their own Edes Prize winner. "We left it to the institutions to identify accomplished artists who they believe have the potential to move their art to another level," said Nik Edes, the foundation's president.

Nik Edes' parents, Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes, were longtime Chicago residents and avid sponsors of the arts. When the foundation, named after the two of them, was created after Samuel Edes' death, Rosen requested that the money be used to honor their interests.

Intrigued by the MacArthur Foundation's "genius grant," Nik Edes decided that his foundation's prize, instead of recognizing past achievements, would allow artists to unleash their creativity without financial constraint.

"There is no requirement that the artists use this prize to mount an exhibition or write a symphony or do anything in particular," he said.

Muncy was selected from a field of three finalists, one from each of Northwestern's eligible schools -- the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Communication and the Bienen School of Music. Faculty members and administrators from the schools, the provost's office and the office of fellowships presided over a three-month selection process in February, March and April.

Edes' recent introduction to Muncy on the Evanston campus strongly suggested what the prize is all about. "Here's a young man with a plan," he said. "He knows what he wants to do, not just this year, but over a period of time."