The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Previewing the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s “Final Forte” teen concerto concert this Wednesday night — Part 2

March 15, 2011

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.

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) (below) under the direction of Music Director John DeMain 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 Piano 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 free concert, 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 be must be reserved.

Four high school students from around the state are the finalists.

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:

In the meantime, I asked each participant to answer some basic questions for a profile. All of them did so, each with an intelligence and a maturity that should whet listeners’ appetite to hear them perform – and to support music education. Yesterday, we heard from Leah and Elliot. Today, we hear from Ariela. (Valerie will be featured tomorrow.)

PIANIST ARIELA BOHROD (far left in the above photo by James Gill)

How old are you and when did you start studying music?

I am 15 years old, and I started studying piano when I was four years old.

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

I am a sophomore at Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan.

What are your favorites subjects?

English and French. I also love to dance; I take ballet and modern. I am also very enthusiastic about Pilates and yoga.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

After I graduate from High School, I would love to attend either a university or a conservatory, preferably in a big city. Most of my top schools are either in New York or California.

Who is your music teacher?

At Interlochen, I study with T.J. Lymenstull. In Madison, Wisconsin, I study with Julie Chang. They are both so influential to me, and they have taught me so much: both musically and personally.

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

Narrowing down all the composers I love to just one is so difficult because I have so many favorites. A few of my favorite composers are Chopin, Debussy and Rachmaninoff. I mainly like to listen to pieces from either the Romantic or Impressionistic era.

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

Playing music is my way of expressing myself. I can express any emotion I have through my music, no matter if I’m happy, sad, angry, excited, etc. It’s really my only way of thoroughly emitting my feelings, and connecting them to others. That’s really my ultimate goal as a pianist – to connect to others, and to emote my feelings to my audience.

What different kinds of music do you listen to and like?

There really isn’t any of genre of music I don’t like. I listen to a broad range of music; from Alternative Rock to Hip-Hop. My favorite music, besides Classical music, is soft, Alternative Rock music.

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?

As soon as I began my freshman year at Interlochen Arts Academy, I knew that I wanted to pursue classical music for the rest of my life. I became so inspired, and I really began looking at and thinking about piano in a totally different way. At that moment, I became so incredibly passionate about music, and I jumped at every opportunity I had to play or perform. It became more than just something I did – it turned into a part of my life.

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

The main piece of advice I can give to others studying music would be to do it because you love it. Enjoy what you are doing, and take every opportunity offered to you. Make the most of your experiences, and love every minute of what you’re doing.

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

Music has this incredible way of connecting to many people at a time. Unlike other areas of study, a group of students can play and work together to create a beautiful sound, piece, or performance. Besides bringing kids together, music can be influential in other classes as well, such as math and foreign languages.

But most important, educating children about music will increase the importance of the arts in their life. I am so passionate about the issue of education in schools because of how important the arts are in my life. I am incredibly privileged to go to such an amazing arts school, and I wish that all children would be able such a rich atmosphere of art around them.

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

I am so honored to have the opportunity to play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Playing with an orchestra is one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had, and it’s so invigorating to feel the excitement from the audience and the orchestra when I go onstage. I am so thankful for this experience, and I can’t wait to perform!

Tomorrow: Meet violinist Valerie Clare Sanders

Posted in Classical music

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