Young Artists Competition features performances of note

Scholarships, opportunities awarded to teen musicians

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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The sound of young talent filled the sanctuary of Trinity Lutheran Church in Vancouver on Sunday afternoon.

Dramatic chords burst from a grand piano. Notes chirped quickly beneath the bow of a violin. Deep tones vibrated from an upright double bass.

One by one, eight students performed classical works at the church, all vying for college scholarships as part of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's 20th annual Young Artists Competition. Three of the teens left Trinity on Sunday having each earned a $1,000 scholarship and the chance to perform their pieces with the Vancouver orchestra at an event in April. The five remaining students each earned scholarships worth $450.

Valerie Ding, 16, smiled at times as she struck the piano keys on Sunday, momentarily throwing her arms away from the piano before striking her next notes. The junior at the Catlin Gabel School in Portland started practicing the piece, Camille Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22, last summer.

"It's very focused work," Ding said after her performance, but "it's all for the love of music."

Her hard work paid off Sunday. She was one of the three competitors to nab a $1,000 scholarship and the opportunity to share the stage with a professional orchestra.

"I'm really grateful that the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra has this program," Ding said, adding that it allows young musicians to "make their debut."

Ding, and the other two top winners on Sunday — 15-year-old Fumika Mizuno and 16-year-old Hannah Moon — said they have performed with symphonies before, but none as prestigious as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The girls will play their pieces as the orchestra provides the accompaniment.

Mizuno, a student at Tualatin,Ore., High School, said she hopes playing with the orchestra will help her "discover new things about the piece," Pablo de Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25. Like Ding, Mizuno has been practicing for months.

Moon, a junior at Portland's Lincoln High School, will perform Edvard Grieg's Concerto in A minor.

"It's a really good learning opportunity," Moon said. "It's rare to be able to perform with a symphony like this."

About 150 people attended Sunday's competition, which was free to the public.

Those winning the $450 scholarships on Sunday were: double bassist Nicholas Arredondo, 15, of Vancouver School of Arts and Academics; pianist Ruta Kuzmickas, 17, of Clackamas, Ore., Web Academy; cellist Richard Lu, 15, of Skyview High School; violinist Kristin Qian, 16, of the Catlin Gabel School; and pianist Edison Tsai, 15, of Portland State University.

The students, all from Northwest Oregon or Southwest Washington, were selected for the competition after submitting an application that included a CD of their work. The winners on Sunday were picked by five judges.

A ninth performer who qualified for Sunday's event, pianist Nathan Kim, was unable to attend because he was performing at Carnegie Hall. The Young Artist Competition originally was scheduled for earlier this month, but it was postponed because of snow.