Music Students: Apply for Youth Concerto Competition

Talented students who love to play music are encouraged to apply for the 2015 Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition by Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.

Competitors vie for $1,000, $500 and $250 prizes. Judges also may invite the winner to perform their selection with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra on April 10, 11 and 12.

SASO sponsors this annual competition that is open to Arizona high school students who play any orchestral instrument, including piano. The competition will be held in Tucson on March 7 and 8.

Students need to prepare and perform one movement from the standard concerto repertoire for solo instrument and orchestra. The music should be memorized.

Public, private and home-schooled student musicians are eligible. To enter, students age 13 to 18 should complete an online application at www.sasomusic.org/ycc.htm. Students under age 13 may apply if recommended by their teacher

Longtime arts patron Dorothy Vanek is passionate about nurturing the next generation of classical musicians. The competition named in her honor is designed to recognize and support outstanding young musicians in the community, encourage them to polish performance skills and build real-life experience. Vanek is SASO’s season sponsor for the eighth consecutive year.

Pianist Rebecca Shiao, a senior at Catalina Foothills High School, won the 2014 competition. Previous first-place winners include pianist Joyce Yang, a Desert View High School student from Phoenix, who won in 2012. Three cellists from University High School have won the competition—Benjamin Nead in 2013, Sara Page in 2011 and Nicholas Mariscal in 2010.

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SASO’s Story

In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.
The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.
Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
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