The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Student violinist Paul Sekulski talks about music education and performing the Sibelius concerto with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras this Sunday night

May 18, 2011

Editor’s note: This year, I am featuring music education as a spotlighted topic. For the next three days, student performers, concerto competition winners, will answer questions about themselves and music education.

By Jacob Stockinger

On Sunday, May 22, 2011, more than 300 talented young musicians will celebrate the arrival of the new season with the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts in Mills Concert Hall (below) in the UW Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, Madison.

At 1:30 p.m., WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta (below), will open the concert series with performances of Holst’s “St. Paul’s Suite” and Dvorak‘s “Bagatelle.” The Concert Orchestra will follow with a popular film score favorite, “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles.”

At 4 p.m., WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra (below) will showcase the talents of Concerto Competition winner pianist Christie Cheng, who will perform the third movement — with her own cadezas —  of Mozart‘s Piano Concerto No. 13 in C Major, K. 415, accompanied by her fellow orchestra members. Philharmonia will also bring a few audience favorites to life, including Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, and Bernstein’s Overture to “West Side Story.”

The Youth Orchestra — WYSO’s premier performing group — will take the stage following the Harp Ensemble at 7 p.m. and will also highlight the Concerto Competition winners.

Maggie Schenk, 18, will perform Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1; Paul Sekulski, 17, will perform the third movement from Jean Sibelius‘ Violin Concerto (bottom); and Megan Whip, 16, will play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. All three soloists will be accompanied by the Youth Orchestra.

The evening concert will also feature the world premiere of a special piece, “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man,” composed by UW School of Music professor John Stevens to honor WYSO’s 94-year-old founder, Marvin Rabin, who will receive the third Lifetime Achievement award from the Wisconsin School Music Foundation on Saturday night.

For a profile about Marvin Rabin (below), visit:

For information about WYSO, visit:

To see my interview with composer John Stevens (bel0w) about the Rabin piece, visit:

WYSO concerts are generally about an hour to an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.

Tickets are available at the door, $8 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age. WYSO was founded in 1966 and has served nearly 5,000 young musicians from more than 100 communities in southern Wisconsin.  

These concerts are generously supported by the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family and the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, the Evjue Foundation, Inc., the charitable arm of The Capital Times, and the Overture Foundation.

This project is also funded in part by additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the State of Wisconsin, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Today’s interview is with Paul Sekulski (below, in a photo by Lloyd Schultz):

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

My name is Paul Sekulski, I am 17 and I started studying violin when I was 4 years old.

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

I am a junior at West High School in Madison.

What are your favorites subjects? Do you have other areas of interest?

My favorite subjects are music, physics and computer science. My other areas of interest are chess and playing guitar, and I play in a string quartet (the Brioso String Quartet).

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I plan to go to go to college, and I’d like to study music, physics and computer science.

Who is your music teacher?

My current violin teacher is Eugene Purdue (for the last 3 years), and before that I studied with Diana Popowycz.

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

My favorite composers are Prokofiev (below), Sibelius and Tchaikovsky.

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

Playing music is important to me because it is really fun to play violin.  I also like to play with other people, like the string quartet and the WYSO orchestra.

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

I listen to and I like classical music and other kinds like rock and jazz.

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?

I knew I wanted to be serious when I was able to start playing actual violin concertos.

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

My advice is to practice.

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

I think musical education is very important, especially at young ages. It helps children develop to view the world in a different way.

Performing the violin concerto by Sibelius (below) with an orchestra is a wonderful opportunity because it is emotionally powerful and it is fun to play.  I am really excited to be playing it.

Posted in Classical music

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