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Team USA Fencers, Coach Launch Pan-American Music Awards, Giving Young Musicians a Shot at Playing Carnegie Hall

05/13/2024, 3:30pm CDT
By Bryan Wendell

The new awards offer an answer to that classic question: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Just as a fencer masterfully wields their weapon, a musician skillfully plays their instrument. Each discipline requires a blend of precision, creativity and relentless dedication. 

This shared spirit is the foundation of the Pan-American Music Awards, a collaboration from by Women’s Foil National Coach Ralf Bissdorf and Team USA fencers Bryce Louie and William Kelly

Aimed at high school musicians who play cello, flute, piano or violin, this program offers winners the extraordinary opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Bissdorf, an Olympic silver medalist and assistant foil coach at Boston College, says the motivation behind this initiative is many-layered. 

“I want to give young musicians an opportunity to showcase their talent. For young musicians to perform at Carnegie Hall will be a milestone in their musical careers,” he says. “Second, I believe I am good at running events, and us being new in this area allows us to do things differently from other music awards. And third, I am having a lot of joy to go on this new endeavor with fellow fencers Bryce and Will, who both bring their unique skillsets to these awards to complement my own.”

Louie, the 2024 NCAA fencing champion (Penn) and an elected official in Los Angeles, says this was a natural fit because fencing and music share many things in common. 

“Both passions require hours and hours of repetition and hard work, which teach life-long skills,” he says. “Behind those amazing musical performances or gold medals are long hours of dedication. Also, in both fencing and music, the individual gets the opportunity to utilize their creativity. In fencing and music, there is more than one way to win a bout or play a musical piece, which allows the individual to input their artistic style.”

Kelly, an LAIFC fencer and former high-level musician, reflects on the inspiration behind this awards program. 

“Not long ago, I was fencing at the highest level, playing music and trying to boost my resume as much as possible to be able to get into a great college,” he says. “The idea of the Pan-American Music Awards was built from this. We were inspired to not only create something to celebrate the hard work of the youth, but also give them something almost tangible to carry with them through life as a sign of their achievements.”

Applications for the 2024 awards are due July 20. Submissions will be judged by a group of top-tier musical talents: Julia Choi, Violin; Benjamin Hochman, Piano; Joel Noyes, Cello and Alexa Still, Flute.

The Winners’ Concert will be held Oct. 18–20, 2024, inside Carnegie Hall’s elegant Weill Recital Hall.

Tag(s): Updates