American Traditions Competition Names New Artistic Director, Board Members

Staff Report From Savannah CEO

Friday, May 19th, 2017

The American Traditions Vocal Competition has appointed a new Artistic Director as it announces its 2017-2018 Board.  This team will lead the unique national competition into its 25th year of showcasing vocal excellence. The Silver Jubilee ATC will run from Monday, February 19 through Friday, February 23, 2018.

Former ATC Gold Medalist and talented soprano Mikki Sodergren has been appointed as the ATC’s new Artistic Director with immediate effect.  Sodergren has been involved in the Savannah community throughout her singing career, including engagements with the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra and the Savannah VOICE Festival. In addition to winning the ATC Gold Medal in 2014, Sodergren was also awarded two further medals - one for best Johnny Mercer lyric interpretation, supplied by the Friends of Johnny Mercer, and the other for best jazz performance; the inaugural award in honor of the late Ben Tucker’s legacy. Sodergren has worked with the ATC over the last two years and is currently pursuing her musical career in both New York and Savannah. 

In New York, Sodergren enjoys a diverse performance career working in opera, jazz, theater and with several professional choral ensembles. She has a passion for being involved in the creation of new works, and has performed in several readings and workshops. Her achievements include workshops of the Disney musical, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring as Ali in the fully-produced workshop of The Bad Years (an immersive musical written by award-winning songwriting team, Kerrigan & Lowdermilk), and as Brooke in rising composer Kamala Sankaram’s “tech” opera, Looking at You. Sodergren has sung solo engagements with the Jacksonville Symphony (FL), the New Jersey Festival Orchestra and the Savannah Philharmonic, in addition to performing with the chamber orchestras of Tel Aviv and New York, and the New York Philharmonic. She performs frequently with choral groups, most notably with the Grammy-nominated ensemble, The Clarion Choir. On the theatrical stage, Sodergren has portrayed such iconic roles as Eponine (Les Miserables), Ilse (Spring Awakening) Luisa Contini (Nine), Carmen (Carmen), Zerlina (Don Giovanni) and Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro). Sodergren is a proud alumna of Interlochen Arts Academy and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

Sodergren is looking forward to continuing her work with the organization as Artistic Director.

“I am very excited to take on this new leadership role with the ATC and so grateful to the board for choosing me for this position. I was fortunate to work alongside our previous Artistic Director Vale Rideout and have been involved with the organization in various capacities over the years including being a competitor, a Gold Medalist, working with contestants in 2016 and 2017 and as the ATC’s social media consultant,” Sodergren said. “I am so honored and thrilled to be a part of guiding this organization into the future, including introducing our new outreach program designed to share American songbook classics and the diversity of American music with the Savannah community.”

Daniel C. Cohen will serve as board president for 2017-18 assisted by Dr. Allen Henderson who takes the position of vice president and president elect for 2018-19 Secretary Jim Wann and Treasurer Barbara Jenks round out the leadership team. Cohen, who practices law in Georgia and South Carolina, is a full-time mediator and team leader at Miles Mediation, and is a partner at Brannen, Searcy & Smith, LLP in Savannah. He was an ATC participant 2002-2004, majored in voice performance in college, and is on the Advisory Board for the Savannah VOICE Festival. Cohen is a frequent soloist in the Savannah area.

Henderson is currently executive director of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the world’s largest professional association of voice teachers, supervising a staff in promoting continuing education among a wide array of constituencies, from recreational singers to voice educators and medical doctors. He is also a music professor at Georgia Southern University, where he teaches voice and foreign language diction. He earned a Bachelor’s of Music from Carson Newman College, where he was the outstanding graduate in music; a Master’s of Music from the University of Tennessee; and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he minored in Arts Administration and won the prestigious Corbett-Treigle Opera Competition. As baritone soloist, Henderson has appeared in concert, opera and oratorio across the United States.

Wann is a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the lead composer/lyricist for the Tony-nominated (Best Musical) Pump Boys and Dinettes. He also originated the role of “Jim” in the 1982-1983 Broadway hit, a pioneering work for actors-musicians that has been presented across the country and around the world. In 2014, the New York Times’ Charles Isherwood, reviewing the Summer Encores production at NY City Center, wrote that Pump Boys “hums along like a vintage Mustang.” Wann’s off-Broadway highlights included 1995’s King Mackerel & the Blues Are Running: Songs and Stories of the Carolina Coast, and 2007’s The People vs. Mona: A Musical Mystery Screwball Comedy, written with his wife, Patricia Miller (who is from Vidalia), and set in southeast Georgia. In 2010, the Carolina Chamber Music Festival commissioned A New Bern Romance, a song cycle composed by Wann and performed by baritone Ron Raines and a string quartet to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Bern, North Carolina. Wann’s CDs include Pardon My Southern Accent: Jim Wann Sings Johnny Mercer. The Wanns live on Tybee Island and in the Hudson Valley.

Jenks is a licensed CPA and holds an MBA. Jenks’ volunteer positions and accreditations include past board member for the Savannah Choral Society, treasurer for Savannah Friends of Music and treasurer for the Special POPS Tennis.

Heyward Gignilliat has been appointed Vice President of Endowments and has served on the ATC board for a number of years. After a career in sales at Coca Cola he now owns and operates the Gignilliat Realty & Management Company. His volunteer positions include: VP, St. John’s Hunt Club, Burkley, SC; Incoming President, St. John’s Hunt Club; Board Member, GA Society Colonial Wars; Board Member, St. Andrew’s Society; Past Vice Chair, Savannah Transit Authority; Past President, Mental Health Association of Savannah; Past Vice President, Mental Health Association of Georgia; Past President, The Oglethorpe Club; Past Secretary, The Society of Cincinnati of Georgia; Delegate, General Society of Cincinnati; Past Board Member, Civitan Club.