This award honors an individual artist in any discipline for their achievements in 2019. Three finalists will be named. The winner of this category will be announced at the Spark Awards!
JoAnn Falletta is internationally celebrated as a vibrant ambassador for music, an inspiring artistic leader, and a champion of American symphonic music. Upon her appointment as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta became the first woman to lead a major American ensemble. She has since been credited with bringing the Philharmonic to a new level of national and international prominence. The orchestra has become one of the leading recording orchestras for Naxos and returned twice to Carnegie Hall in 2004 and again in 2013. In 2018, the BPO made their first international tour in three decades, to perform at Warsaw’s prestigious Beethoven Easter Festival where Falletta made history as the first American woman to conduct an orchestra at the Festival. She and the BPO have been honored with numerous ASCAP awards, including the top award for Adventurous Programming. Other accomplishments include the establishment of the orchestra’s Beau Fleuve label, the founding of the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition in partnership with WNED, and the national and international broadcast of concerts on NPR’s Performance Today, SymphonyCast, and the European Broadcasting Union. With a discography of 112 titles, JoAnn is a leading recording artist for Naxos. Her discs have won three GRAMMY® Awards and received eleven nominations. Ms. Falletta is the artistic advisor to the Hawaii Symphony and has held the positions of principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Phoenix Symphony, music director of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and music director of the Denver Chamber Orchestra.
Chris J. Handley
Chris J Handley is Associate Artistic Director of Buffalo’s Alleyway Theatre, where he will assume executive leadership this summer, and where he founded the Theatre School of WNY. He has worked in theater for over 20 years in Buffalo, New York City, and across the country as an actor, teacher, director, and producer. He is Vice President of the Theatre District Association, sits on the Actors’ Equity Liaison Committee, is a 2019 Cullen Foundation Fellow, and is on faculty at SUNY Fredonia.
As an actor, his work locally has been wide ranging on many area stages including Alleyway, MusicalFare, Shakespeare in Delaware Park, 710 Main, Jewish Repertory Theatre, and the Lancaster Opera House. Just this season, he played roles as varied as Buddy (Elf the Musical), Bruce (Fun Home), Trinculo (The Tempest), and Matt (Talley’s Folly). He recently staged the world premiere musical The King’s Legacy at Bristol Valley Theatre, and spent over two years as a Mississippi Riverboat entertainer.
As an independent teaching artist, he has developed various workshops on the craft, taught privately, and spent three years teaching BFA and BA theatre students Acting and Voice & Speech. Mr. Handley holds an MFA in Acting from Indiana University, and a BFA in Musical Theatre from SUNY Fredonia.
Edreys Wajed is an enthusiastic and inspiring walking enterprise of all things creative. The Buffalo native boasts a long resume of creative talents and achievements from visual art, to jewelry designer and entrepreneur. From having run his own stationery boutique and art gallery shared with his equally talented wife, Alexa; touring as hip hop artist, to being a second generation jewelry designer, his diversity is exceptional. Edreys is recognized for his contribution as one of 4 artists for The Freedom Wall mural, commissioned by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 2017. Creatively evolving, his latest works made an incredible impression and impact in May/July 2019, in a sold-out solo show and exhibit at Argus Gallery, Bflo.,NY. His paintings are now also respectively in both the Burchfield-Penney Arts Center and The Roswell Park Art Heals Gallery permanent art collections.