Martha Summa-Chadwick

“Power of Music,” an online concert at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, has made the semi-finals for a national arts award.

A collaboration between pianist and UTC alumna Martha Summa-Chadwick, tenor Richard Cox and violinist Mark Reneau, the concert is nominated for the 2021-22 American Prize in Virtual Performance.

The American Prize organization is relatively new, but its annual performing arts competitions and awards are prestigious and receive entries from around the country.

“The virtual performance category is new and was the most popular of all the various submissions for this past year, so it’s exciting and an honor to have made it this far in the division,” said Summa-Chadwick, who was head of the UTC piano program in 2001-02.

Winners will be announced later this year.

The “Power of Music” concert was recorded last summer in Cadek Hall and its website includes highlights from the virtual concert as well as panel discussions with Summa-Chadwick, Stuart Benkert, head of the UTC Division of Music, Bob Bernhardt, music director emeritus and principal pops conductor of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, and Rick Rader, director of the Morton J. Kent Habilitation Center at the Orange Grove Center in Chattanooga.

The website also has recorded tributes from former Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and Stratton Tingle, executive director of SoundCorps in Chattanooga, touting the benefits of music for the individual and for society.

“Music helps heal relationships, change perspective and gets us through the ups and downs of  life,” Alexander says in his message.

The goal of “Power of Music” was always more than just a performance, said Summa-Chadwick, who earned a Master of Music from UTC in 1996.

“We knew we wanted to do something top-notch, more than just a concert uploaded to YouTube. So that’s why we created the website and added the tributes and did the lectures,” Summa-Chadwick said.

“Power of Music” was organized by Music Therapy Gateway in Communications, a nonprofit founded by Summa-Chadwick in 2003 to promote music in medicine and education. Focused on helping children with autism, the  organization brings together healthcare providers, musicians, music therapists, educators, caregivers and IT professionals.

Music is essential to human experience, but most people don’t know about the vast, recent advances in science-based music therapy practices, she said. Research indicates positive therapeutic outcomes for people with motor, speech and cognitive challenges when music serves as a direct conduit into their brains.

“We want people to enjoy the music and the discussions and have resources available to learn about music and brain and the therapeutic effects of music in medicine.”

Summa-Chadwick was pursuing her bachelor’s degree from the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford in the late 1970s and early 80s when she met a recruiter from IBM who was looking for music students to help program mainframes, the huge and unwieldy forerunners to the modern computer.

She spent 20 years in the tech world and helped develop software that translates musical notation into “colors that can be played.”

Multiple layers of awareness are needed to perform a piece of music and to write computer code, Summa-Chadwick said.

“You’re dealing with symbolic language in both situations, she said. “Anyone who can analyze one of Beethoven symphonies would find coding a piece of cake.”

Sponsors for “Power of Music” include UTC, the Tennessee Arts Commission, ArtsBuild in Chattanooga, EP Magazine, the Orange Grove Center, Chattanooga Autism Center and CHI Memorial.



Media Relations Contacts: Email UTC Media Relations or call 423-425-5119.

Charlie Reed is a staff writer in the Division of Communications and Marketing at UTC.

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