The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Meet the winners of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s youth competition who perform this Wednesday night

March 14, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

I promised earlier this year that I would focus on music education.

With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker cutting back on school aids and Congressional Republicans looking to defund – read, gut or kill – NPR and PBS – music education (an arts education in general) needs all the help it can get.

In that spirit, I want to highlight the upcoming Final Forte concert and Bolz Young Artist Competition held each year for high school instrumentalists by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below).

The free concert, under the baton of maestro John DeMain, which will also determine the final order and prizes of the winners, will take place this Wednesday, March 16, in Overture Hall, at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are free but must be reserved. Go to htttp://wpr.org/madison

Four high school students from around the state are the finalists. Two will be profiled today and the rest tomorrow.

The finalists in the 2011 Bolz Young Artists Competition are pianist Ariela Bohrod, cellist Elliot Yang and violinists Leah Latorraca and Valerie Clare Sanders.

Each finalist will perform a concerto excerpt with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) under the direction of Music Director John DeMain (below) before a live audience.

Bohrod will perform “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22” by Camille Saint-Saëns. Yang will perform “Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107” by Dmitri Shostakovich. Latorraca will perform Violin Concerto No. 2 by Béla Bartók and Sanders will perform Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

The winner and runner-up will be featured as soloists with the MSO at the Spring Young People’s Concert. In addition, each student will receive a $2,000 scholarship; either the Marian Bolz Prize or the Steenbock Youth Music Award. Up to two Honorable Mention scholarships of $1,000 may be awarded.

The concert will be broadcast LIVE Wednesday night starting at 7 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wisconsin Public Television will broadcast the concert on Monday, March 28, at 8 p.m. and then on Saturday, April 3, at 3:30 p.m.

What a perfect use of public radio and television, The Ears says. Why would anyone want to defund such meritorious and deserving public services?

For more information about the Final Forte, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/bolz

In the meantime, I asked each participant to answer some basic questions for a profile. Three of them did so, all with an intelligence and maturity that should whet listeners’ appetite to hear them perform – and to support music education.

LEAH LATORRACA (second from right in the photo above by James Gill):

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

My name is Leah Latorraca and I am 17 years old. I began playing violin at age 4.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to?

I am a senior at Madison La Follette High School.

What are your favorites subjects and other areas of interest?

I really enjoy math and languages, especially Spanish. I also enjoy running, biking, and tennis; any outdoor activities.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I intend to attend music school for violin performance. If all goes well I would love to perform in a professional orchestra and/or chamber group.

Who is your music teacher?

I study with Desiree Ruhstrat at the Music Institute of Chicago.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play?

I really love Romantic composers — Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Dvorak etc., and I love the Romantic chamber music. Mozart and Beethoven are also very refreshing to listen to and play.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you?

Music is important to me because it is a form of communication and expression for me. It is the universal language, bringing people of all cultures and ethnicities together. Playing music not only teaches creativity and expression, but also dedication, responsibility, and diligence.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

In 6th grade I attended a music camp in Philadelphia. That was the first time that I was surrounded by so many amazing players and the first time I realized the possibilities available to me in music.

What advice would you give others, students and adults, about studying music?

Follow your heart, and be passionate about your dreams.

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education?

I believe that music education is just as important as other academics. Ideally, music education should begin at an early age as it fosters creativity, expression, and responsibility. Studies have shown that students exposed to Mozart and other music at an early age increases their aptitude in math and languages. Having at least a basic musical education helps lead to a more enriched, cultured, and well-rounded individual.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with and orchestra mean to you and why?

Having the chance to perform a concerto with an orchestra is an amazing experience. With the exception of young prodigies, it is rare for students to have such a wonderful opportunity to play with a great orchestra. Additionally, since there is no required repertoire for the competition, I am able to play any piece of my choice. Having the full texture of an orchestra behind you is an exhilarating experience.

ELLIOT YANG (second from left in the photo below by James Gill)

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

My name is Elliot Yang and I started playing the cello at the age of six.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to?

I am currently in the 11th grade at New Berlin West High School

What are your favorites subjects and other areas of interest?

Aside from music I enjoy competitive swimming, catching up with friends, baseball, action/drama movies, and reading nonfiction. Khaled Hoessini is definitely one of my more recent favorite authors.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I always thought I would go to a university, but I’ve recently had aspirations to attend music school.  I’m currently aiming to become a cello professor.

Who is your music teacher?

I currently study with Dr. Stefan Kartman of UW-Milwaukee.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play?

My favorite composer is Bach because without him, the music we have today wouldn’t exist. Bach managed to bridge medieval music with modern music and anticipated everything to come.  My favorite pieces include Schubert’s “Arpeggione Sonata,” Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, the Sibelius Violin Concerto, “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Appalachian Spring,” “Adagio for Strings,” and many others.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you?

Playing music is important because it is another way to express myself and understand others.  Music teaches me discipline and challenges me to be original in my ideas.

Aside from classical music — which should definitely be more than just one genre! — I enjoy pop, easy listening, folk music, alternative, and world music.  More specifically, Edith Piaf, Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra, Coldplay, Jack Johnson, and Herbie Hancock are among my favorite artists.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

No, I wouldn’t say there was a moment I truly knew this is what I wanted to pursue.  However, I would say that my appreciation for music has been exponential.  At the start, I really hated playing the instrument because I didn’t have the basics established.  But when the mechanical aspects of playing were reached, I could stop agonizing over elementary things and was then able to focus on making music, which is fantastic.

What advice would you give others, students and adults, about studying music?

The key to musical success is acknowledging the failures.  I simply accept what happens on stage and move on.  There’s no reason to be nostalgic for I cannot change the past.  Instead, along with success, I see the failures as necessary steps needed to reach my goals.  Studying music is a lifelong process that one can never master.  Also, you practice!

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education?

Musicians and actors have a lot in common.  For one, both are involved in the entertainment industry.  They make people cry, laugh, and tell them stories.  Story-telling is very important because it challenges the performer to take what’s on the page and present it in his or her own way. Interpretation and ideas are shared, and music education acts as the catalyst.  Even though music is an art, it isn’t confined to just artists.  These musical ideas can be shared with anyone willing to listen.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with and orchestra mean to you and why?

This opportunity of playing with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Overture Hall is the biggest event so far in my career.  I don’t know anyone personally who has performed in this hall and it is an incredible honor to do so. This is also my first performance with a professional symphony and I’m very excited!


Posted in Classical music

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