Student musicians to perform in Concerto Competition finals

A chance to play with the Sam Houston State University symphony orchestra or wind ensemble is on the line for students who have made it to the inaugural Concerto Competition finals.

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Being the first competition of its kind for the School of Music, Jonathan Pasternack, visiting director of orchestral studies, said the competition has been in development for some time and is a way to showcase the students’ hard work.

“This important project has been in the works for awhile, and it’s time now to get it underway,” Pasternack said. “Listeners will enjoy hearing these excellent student musicians perform a very interesting variety of musical styles.”

The performers involved jumped at the chance to perform in their respective areas of expertise when the competition was made available. Horn player Melodie Larsen said she chose to participate because of the challenge that comes with a competition like this.

“This is actually the first year the school of music has held a concerto competition,” Larsen said. “In the past, we’ve had an Honors Recital, which is similar, but the winners performed only with piano accompaniment and didn’t receive prizes. I decided to participate because I enjoy challenging myself and performing for people.”

To participate in the competition, the students had to be enrolled in private lessons during the 2014-15 academic year.

“They have been working on their solo pieces since at least the beginning of the fall semester, if not earlier,” Pasternack said.

After the preliminary rounds, the finalists were chosen from different instrumental areas, including piano, violin, viola, cello, saxophone, horn, trombone and a euphonium trio. Each performer worked with instructors and on their own to prepare for performance in their instrumental area.

Nathan Wood is a part of the euphonium trio and said he and the other two members of the trio have been hard at work to pull off a memorable performance.

“I will be performing with two other Euphonium players, Kaitlin Knight and Luis Blas, in a piece composed by Lyndol Mitchell entitled ‘Concerto Grosso In Stile Borocco,’” Wood said. “The three of us have spent many, many hours of individual practice and rehearsal to prepare and be ready with a polished performance.”

A soloist and orchestra piece is prepared by participants to perform for the judges. Pianist Pablo Martinez explained how it works for participating musicians.

“Each participant has to prepare a piece for soloist and orchestra, in my case, the Shostakovich’s 2nd Concerto for piano and orchestra, but there are other musicians playing, for example, the violin or the cello,” Martinez said. “We will play our piece accompanied by a pianist that will play the orchestra part. For my concerto, there will be two pianos on stage, one for the soloist part played by me, and a second piano playing the orchestra part.”

Three guest judges will award first, second and third place prizes. Cash awards will be given to each of the prizewinners.

The first place prizewinner will be invited to perform later this semester with the SHSU Symphony Orchestra or Wind Ensemble. Martinez and the majority of other performers agreed that the chance to perform again was more exciting than receiving a cash prize.

“Musicians love to perform,” Martinez said. “We belong to the stage – the same as dancers, actors, etc. We use every chance that we have to communicate using our art, and there is no better place than our own University where our friends can come to listen.

Support for each other and friendly competition is also a theme among the performers.

“I would say that it is going to be a very exciting night,” Martinez said. “Nerves, music and friendship will blend into a wonderful atmosphere for the audience.”

Admission to the competition is free and open to anyone.

“All of the students involved in the competition are exceptional musicians and I fully expect every single one of them to play brilliantly well,” Wood said. “Rest assured that not a single person in the audience will be disappointed. Also, we love to play in front of an audience.”

The Concerto Competition finals will take place tonight at 7 p.m. in the Gaertner Performing Arts Center Concert Hall.

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