Leighton Award for Nonprofit Excellence honors Fischoff National Chamber Music Association

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Fischoff Competition ensemble outside DeBartolo

The Fischoff National Chamber Music Association, which hosts the nation’s largest chamber music competition, held annually on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, was awarded the 2014 Leighton Award for Nonprofit Excellence by the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County on Wednesday (Aug. 28).

Founded in 1999, the Leighton Award for Nonprofit Excellence provides a $100,000 endowment challenge grant to one winner each year. The award is designed to recognize and celebrate the achievement of a local nonprofit and provide resources to its winner to help sustain the nonprofit’s mission.

The Notre Dame-based Fischoff National Chamber Music Association sponsors the annual Fischoff Competition, one of the most prestigious classical music prizes attainable. Its purpose is to encourage youths to pursue chamber music study and performance. Since 1973, the competition has attracted musicians from around the country and around the world to the Notre Dame campus. It is the only national chamber music competition with both senior and junior divisions and also is the largest, with about 125 participating ensembles comprised of three to six performers in both wind and string categories.

“Winning this award is both heart-warming and heart-stopping,” said Ann Divine, executive director of the Fischoff association. “We have had wonderful feedback and encouragement from the community and that is helping embolden us as we begin work on securing the endowment match. It is set to be quite an adventure.”

“By design, this is a matching grant,” Divine said, “so the $100,000 gift will be added to our fund in the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County when we have raised an additional $100,000.” Divine said the association’s short-term goal is to reach $1 million to help enlarge the nonprofit’s existing education programs and maintain the Fischoff Competition.

In addition to the competition, the association also partners with competition alumni to bring free, innovative Arts-in-Education programs directly to children in local schools and community centers. In 2013, Divine said, the association will reach about 4,000 children and youth in the community. Fischoff’s signature program, S.A.M. I Am (Stories and Music), provides a musical re-enactment of a children’s book for area children ages 5 to 10. Other programs include PACMan (Peer Ambassadors for Chamber Music), which places Fischoff Competition ensembles in elementary school classrooms during the competition weekend to encourage participation in school music programs, and the Mentoring Project, which is a program open to motivated area high school musicians who form chamber ensembles and receive up to 12 free coaching sessions by professional chamber musicians. “These ensembles are, in turn, asked to play for the community to pay it forward,” said Divine.

Fischoff also provides master classes to area high school- and college-age chamber musicians, school and community center workshops and house concerts to hosts of Fischoff ensembles. For more information on the association, visit Fischoff.org.