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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


School of Music names annual concert competition winners

Courtesy of Chia-Chun Ko

Each year, the UA School of Music hosts its Annual Concerto Competition. Students compete in one of four divisions: winds and percussion, strings, keyboard and voice. Winners of the competition receive a cash prize and perform as soloists in the President’s Concert with the Arizona Symphony Orchestra in February. This year’s winners of the 39th Annual Concerto Competition are Alex Van Duuren, Chia-Chun Ko, Yunnie Park and Lauren Hayes.

Alex Van Duuren, tenor trombone

Van Duuren, a first-year doctoral student, decided to participate in the Annual Concerto Competition because of the rare opportunity to perform with the School of Music’s best orchestra, he said.

“I knew I had a chance to win and I didn’t want to throw that away,” he said.

He selected the piece he wanted to play, Lars-Erik Larsson’s Concertino for Trombone and String Orchestra, Op. 45 No. 7, about a month ago, he said.

Van Durren has been playing brass instruments for 13 years, and he’s been playing the tenor trombone for seven. Before he began his studies at the UA, Van Duuren studied at the University of Michigan, where he earned two master’s degrees.

When Van Duuren performs, he emphasizes phrasing and musicality. His “natural understanding of musical phrasing” sets him apart from his competitors, he said. According to Van Duuren, playing basic melodies instead of overcomplicating the music is the best way to appeal to an audience.

“We don’t listen to complicated music as a populace anymore,” he said.

Musicians have to distinguish themselves from the rest of the competition in order to succeed, Van Duuren said.
“It takes something about you that’s extra musical, something you have to offer that other people don’t,” he added.

Chia-Chun Ko, piano

Ko, a second-year doctoral student studying piano performance, came to the UA from Taiwan, where she played piano for 20 years. Winning the Annual Concerto Competition has given her the opportunity to finally fulfill her dream of playing with an orchestra, she said.

Ko chose her performance piece, Concerto No. 2 in C-minor, Op. 18, third movement: Allegro scherzando by Sergei Rachmaninov, in the summer of 2011. She chose it because she wanted to master the entire composition.

“It’s a masterpiece, and it deserves to be learned,” she said. “And it’s popular and so romantic and beautiful.”

For Ko, participating in the competition helped her expand her repertoire. Because the concerto is based on the Russian school of music, Ko was forced to think of music in new ways, she said.

According to Ko, her greatest advantage is her personality.

“I have a sensitive personality so I can handle the lyrical melodies and I have expressive musicality,” she said.

Ko said the most important thing for aspiring musicians to do is study at an institution that will allow them to grow the most musically and become the most successful.

Yunnie Park, soprano

Park, a third-year doctoral student studying vocal performance, chose to sing “Regnava nel Silenzio” from the opera “Lucia di Lammermoor” by Gaetano Donizetti. She began practicing the piece three months ago by reading, playing and singing the music for about three hours each day.

The biggest challenge, she said, was coping with the pressure of participating in the competition.

“You go up there and you’re singing in front of everyone and they will judge you,” she said.

Winning the competition has given her confidence, she said, because she completed such a daunting task.

Park began studying vocal performance in Korea and later studied at the University of Northern Iowa, where she earned her master’s degree. Park came to the UA specifically to study with Faye Robinson, an associate professor in the School of Music and renowned opera singer.

For Park, participating in the competition was just another step to achieving her goal of becoming a professional performer in New York, she said. According to Park, realizing that dream means taking every opportunity to audition, compete and perform.
“Just try. You might win, you might lose, but you will earn something from that,” she said.

Lauren Hayes, harp

When Hayes was a child, her parents took her to see “The Nutcracker,” which includes a harp cadenza, or solo in a concerto. Hayes loved the cadenza and started begging her parents to let her learn how to play the harp, she said. In the third grade, Hayes began taking lessons. Now, she is a UA sophomore studying harp performance.

“I loved playing harp and I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.

Hayes started preparing Alberto Ginastera’s Harp Concerto, Op. 25, third movement: Vivace at the end of August of 2011. She practices for four hours every day. “I’d say the biggest challenge is just keeping your motivation high,” Hayes said, “because when you’re working on the same piece for such a long period of time, it’s easy to let your guard down or let yourself down and not work as hard as you could.”

Hayes said she chose to participate in the Annual Concerto Competition because of the opportunity to gain more performance experience.

She said she enjoys sharing her passion with others, and that she hopes to eventually play with an orchestra and teach harp at a university.

Her advice to aspiring musicians: keep trying, work diligently and respect the talent of others.

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