Not everyone can say their music is a No. 1 seller on Amazon.com, but the members and music director of the Fort Smith Symphony now can claim that feat.
A few days ago, the symphony's newest studio recording, "The Price of Pioneering: Her Symphonic First," hit the top selling spot in the classical music category on Amazon.com. The recording, which pays tribute to Arkansas native Florence Price, the first African-American female symphonic composer, is still in Amazon's Top 10 sales list.
"The music on the recording is wonderful, and the response to the music has been excellent," said John Jeter, music director for the Fort Smith Symphony. "The music is influenced by European symphony music but it's very American and it's about the American experience. There's a blues element, and the music is influenced by church hymns.
"And the music on this recording isn't that well-known as of now, and that is very exciting," he added. "The New York Times did a nice piece on it, and I'm doing public radio interviews with New Jersey, New York and Chicago. It's not about bragging rights, because one of the reasons we do projects like this is to get Fort Smith, as a community, out on a national stage in a unique way."
Recorded at the ArcBest Performing Arts Center in May and released this month on the Naxos International music label, "The Price of Pioneering: Her Symphonic First" features the Fort Smith Symphony's recordings of Price's "Symphony No. 1 in E Minor" and "Symphony No. 4 in D Minor."
"The recording engineer is Tim Handley, and he has won nine Grammy Awards as a recording producer," Jeter said. "He's produced about 450 classical albums, and he is an absolute pro who lives in London and works for Naxos."
The CD version can be purchased at the Fort Smith Symphony office, Suite 617 in Central Mall, by calling (479) 452-7575 and emailing email@example.com and at FortSmithSymphony.org. CD and download versions can be obtained at sites such as Amazon.com, Naxos.com, iTunes, Spotify and others.
"Online, the CDs and downloads are in the $12 range, but we here at the Fort Smith Symphony office, we are charging $15," Jeter said. "The $15 is still affordable for people.
"And the timing of this release is on purpose, so it's in everybody's hands in time for Black History Month in February," he added.
Price, who was born and raised in Arkansas, was the first African-American female symphonic composer to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra, Jeter said.
"A big part of our job is promoting the culture of our state," he said. "In the history of American concert music, and more specifically, American symphonists, Arkansas has this special place. The first two African-American symphonists — Florence and William Grant Still — have this deep Arkansas connection.
"William Grant Still moved to Arkansas when he was 4 and he was raised in Arkansas," Jeter added. "We have this excellent heritage in our state."
The Fort Smith Symphony's Price collection is the fourth studio recording to be released following its three previous William Grant Still recordings, which also were released by Naxos International.
"The quality of the orchestra continues to grow, so the recording sessions became even easier," Jeter said.
Like Jeter, Becky Yates, business manager for the symphony, has been unable to mask her enthusiasm for the new recording.
"We are very excited about all of the international coverage we have received," she said. "I think it is so great for Fort Smith."
"We have some classical guest artists who have contacted us about working with them on other projects," Jeter said. "It's exciting, and I really appreciate all of the community support we have, so that we can do things like this. It's really nice to do special projects.
"It's great on so many levels," he added. "It's a neat example of how you can take an orchestra and do different things — do concerts, make recordings, play rock, play in the schools and play various genres, and I'm glad we are doing music that has never been recorded before. That's an important thing to do in the music-and-arts world."