3 young county musicians to perform with VSO

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



If You Go: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

What: 22nd annual Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artists competition.

When: 1 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Trinity Lutheran Church, 309 W. 39th St., Vancouver.

Cost: Free.

Information: www.vancouversymphony.org

Three student musicians from Clark County are among eight from across the region who have advanced to the glory round of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s annual Young Artists Competition. You can hear all eight of them perform for free Sunday afternoon in a concert that’s always considered a highlight of the orchestra’s year.

“This event is very exciting,” said executive director and principal clarinetist Igor Shakhman. It’s always packed with parents, teachers and friends as well as the general public, and there’s a certain electricity in the air as the young competitors give it their all. Shakhman previously described the event as a cross between a classical concert and a reality show.

“For a young musician to be successful in the final round of such a high-intensity environment, this musician has to be already an extremely competitive performer, on top of being very talented,” he said.

Great concerts are a primary mission of the symphony, but so is community and youth education, Shakhman said. Most of the group’s educational efforts go below the public’s radar, but they mean to change that soon. Meanwhile, the Young Artists Competition manages to straddle both missions, with all the student finalists performing for the public on Sunday and the eventual first-place winners proceeding to a guest-soloist spot with the whole Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in April.

The Clark County finalists this year are 14-year-old pianist Monica Chang, a ninth-grader at Camas High School; 17-year-old cellist Richard Lu, a senior at Skyview High School; and 14-year-old violinist Nicholas Dill, a home-schooled ninth-grader from Brush Prairie.

The other five finalists are all from Portland: cellists Joanne Lee and Paul Lee, and pianists Christopher Yoon, Lauren Yoon and Anthony Zheng.

Note those shared last names? Shakhman said he doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know if they’re related. “It doesn’t matter to us,” he said. “The only criteria by which they are chosen is their performance.”

The emcee for Sunday’s performance will be genial radio personality Edmund Stone, the weekend host of KQAC, All Classical Portland, at 89.9 FM.

Big gig

This is the Vancouver Symphony’s 22nd annual Young Artists competition. Student musicians within a 135-mile radius of Vancouver — including Seattle, Yakima and Eugene, Ore. — are invited to submit anonymous entries on CD every autumn. Finalists are selected for the live Sunday competition by a panel of professional musician-judges.

There are usually nine finalists — a first-, second- and third-place winner in each of three categories, piano, strings, and combined brass/woodwinds/percussion — but this is the second year in a row that no contestant in that latter category stood out.

So be it, Shakhman said, because this competition isn’t just about picking a winner — it’s about advancing truly excellent young musicians. It’s the judges’ discretion to determine whether anybody really fits that bill, he said. Since nobody did in the brass/woodwinds/percussion category again this year, the judges selected eight finalists in the other two categories instead of nine finalists in all three.

There probably will be two third-place winners in each category, Shakhman said, but it’s up to the judges to decide exactly how the winning will work. There could even be a first-place tie within one category, he said.

At stake, in addition to bragging rights, is $5,000 in scholarship money. First-place winners get $1,000, second-place winners get $500 and third-place winners get $250 each. Plus, the ultimate bragging right will go to those gold-medal finishers: a special guest-soloist gig with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra itself, conducted by maestro Salvador Brotons, during its April 9 and 10 concerts at Skyview Concert Hall.

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; scott.hewitt@columbian.com; twitter.com/_scotthewitt