Oasis, Inc. has teamed up with James Piorkowski to create the Oasis Guitar Jury Prize to support the next generation of classical guitarists
Oasis, Inc. has teamed up with James Piorkowski, longtime head of the guitar program at the renowned School of Music of the State University of New York at Fredonia, to create the Oasis Guitar Jury Prize to support the next generation of classical guitarists.
The partnership that began at a Guitar Foundation of America conference a dozen years ago has flourished, striking all the right notes and presenting cash prizes to 10 Fredonia guitar majors since 2015.
“The Oasis Guitar Jury Prize is awarded to the student that has made the most progress each semester,” explained Dave Hepple, president of Oasis, Inc. “It doesn’t have to be the best student, but the student who has put in the time to develop his or her skills and who has made the most progress.”
Jim, who holds the rank of SUNY Distinguished Professor, says the Oasis Prize provides motivation, recognition and reward.
“A guitar major must work long hours, daily, all alone in a practice room. When a student ‘does it right,’ he or she should leave the room better than when he or she entered. When a student turns those days into weeks, and those weeks into months, it’s as if the caterpillar has morphed into a butterfly,” Jim explained.
“That transformation is difficult to achieve, and the Oasis Prize recognizes that successful effort put forth by a student. Occasionally, two students will share the award in one semester, as they have made it impossible for us to rank one over the other.”
Jim and fellow School of Music colleague Evan Drummond serve as Oasis Prize judges. They hear these students throughout the semester, in lessons and recital seminars, so they’re uniquely positioned to judge the arc of improvement of each student.
Dave considers the prize to be “a great investment” in aspiring classical guitarists. “There’s nothing like getting $500 at the end of the semester for all the work that you did. It’s a substantial reward that helps them out.”
There are, well, no strings attached the award. According to Jim, students have used the money to purchase new music scores, to help buy a new instrument, for travel and for additional lessons.
Recipients of the Oasis Prize in the 2018-19 academic year were William Jenney (spring) and Daniel Nordquist (fall). Michael Bunny and Ryan Keyes shared the prize in spring 2018 semester, as did Shane Bucci and John Himes in the fall 2017 semester. Prior awardees include Christopher Deuel (spring 2017); Pennington Watson (fall 2016); Michael Bunny (spring 2016) and Steven Wong (fall 2015).
Some winners are in the process of completing their degrees at Fredonia, while others have recently graduated or are attending graduate school.
Dave and Jim’s friendship began at a vendor’s table at a GFA conference in Oberlin, Ohio. Jim was drawn to the unique design and effectiveness of the Oasis humidifier. He remembers being impressed with the Oasis humidifier “right off the bat” and began ordering them for his students and recommending them to colleagues.
As Dave expanded his company, making new kinds of guitar strings and other accessories for guitarists, Jim continued to test new prototypes and provide valuable feedback. Dave wanted to show his appreciation by making a donation to the Fredonia guitar program, and asked Jim to develop a plan that would make good use of his contribution. The Oasis Guitar Jury Prize was born.
Jim’s credentials are indeed impressive. He’s known internationally for music composing, performing, recording and teaching and was a longtime member of the pioneering Buffalo Guitar Quartet, which Guitar Player Magazine hailed as one of the world’s premiere classical guitar ensembles. Jim has also won ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Award numerous times.
He’s proud of his affiliation with Dave, and likes the way Dave runs his company and the products that it makes. “He is a stickler for ‘getting it right’ and is always working to improve them.”
Dave has renewed the Oasis Guitar Prize ever since. “Jim has been a wonderful friend and I have been glad to support his program,” he said.