Greenville native Chris Hansen wins ArtPrize music award

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 3:26 pm on Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Nearly 100 musicians gathered at Rosa Parks Circle Park in Grand Rapids for the ArtPrize music competition this year to play Chris Hansen’s original piece, “The Grand Rapids Shuffle,” which won first place in the classical music category. — Courtesy photo

GRAND RAPIDS — When people think of the ever-growing Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition, a wide array of entries come to mind, including sculptures, paintings, crafts,  photos, architecture — even works of computer programing.

But music?

It’s a part of ArtPrize that continues to grow, and this year, a Greenville native went home victorious as one of the winners.

Chris Hansen, a 1975 Greenville High School graduate who now resides in Hudsonville, won first place for an original composition he scored for the competition’s classical category.

“I was a little bit surprised,” Hansen said. “You always hope that you’re going to win, but you never really expect to. To be honest, this was a lot of work. You’ve got to write the piece and then recruit players to actually come and play it.”

This was Hansen’s third attempt in the competition, which saw more than 80 entries throughout the five categories of Classical, Pop/Electronic, Rock/Blues, Jazz and Folk/Country.

Hansen’s piece was titled “The Grand Rapids Shuffle” and was played by his Grand Rapids-based music group Hark Up, which has been playing in the area for several years. The piece was eventually played again in Rosa Parks Circle Park by close to 100 musicians, ranging from 13 to 90 years in age.

Chris Hansen, a 1975 Greenville High School graduate, won first place in the Grand Rapids ArtPrize music competition for his original piece, “The Grand Rapids Shuffle,” in the classical music category. — Courtesy photo

The St. Cecilia Music Center awarded each winner with a $2,000 prize along with $1,000 in recording time at Mackinaw Harvest Music in Grand Rapids. It’s the second year that St. Cecilia has awarded cash prizes to songwriters who received the most ArtPrize votes and the third year that songs have been part of the ArtPrize competition.

Hansen said his piece was written for a concert band performance, and though it was in the classical group, he said it “has a little bit of a beat to it.”

“My goal was to bring people together of all ages,” he said. “It’s a really joyful piece. I wanted to try to reflect how joyful music can be for everybody.”

According to Hansen, it didn’t take long to write the piece, only a few days, but the revision process, in which he had many musicians play and critique his song, lasted several months.

Hansen said he dedicated the piece to pubic school music education programs, which he believes are finding it more difficult in recent years to survive amid budget cuts and curriculum changes.

“I’m really partial to the public school system,” he said. “The song itself, ‘The Grand Rapids Shuffle,’ is available for free for any public school program to use as a full arrangement for a performance for the students.”

Hansen said he had as many as 20 music teachers, current and retired, as well as many students, including almost the entire trombone section from the Rockford High School band, play in one of the performances during ArtPrize.

Greenville Middle School Band Director Jeff Ayres was one of those teachers, who played trumpet on the piece.

“His piece was really cool,” Ayres said. “It had a jazzy, ragtime, almost Dixieland fee to it. We played in three different venues and for the competition we had a 30-minute time slot and played several different songs. It was an honor for him and I know he deserved it.”

Hansen said he was most thankful for everyone who volunteered their time to help play the piece during the ArtPrize competition.

“It was really fun to win,” he said. “I had a lot of neat people who got behind it and pulled three or four community groups together to make it happen.”

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