Fifteen-year-old violinist Bobae Johnson won the 2015 Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition sponsored by the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the $1,000 cash prize, she was invited to solo with the orchestra on April 10, 11 and 12.
Johnson will play the third movement of the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3. She attends Desert Vista High School in Phoenix and studies with Jonathan Swartz, professor of violin at Arizona State University. She is the first violinist to win the SASO youth competition.
She began studying violin seven years ago. She is co-concertmaster of the Phoenix Youth Symphony. She’s also won the 2012 Phoenix Youth Symphony Concerto Competition, the grand prize and first place in the 2012 Four Seasons Orchestra Bach Competition and the 2012 Arizona ASTA State Junior Solo Competition. She has attended the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine and the Innsbrook Institute Summer Music Academy and Festival in Missouri. In 2014 she soloed with the Musica Nova Orchestra in Phoenix. Bobae has played in the MusicaNova’s Young Artists series the past two years and will debut with the MusicaNova Orchestra in November 2015. This summer, she will attend Madeline Island Music Camp with a full scholarship and Domaine Forget Music Festival with a partial scholarship.
Violinist Nicole Skaggs won the $500 second-place prize and oboist Kip Zimmerman won the $250 third-place prize.
Skaggs, 15, is a sophomore at Canyon del Oro High School and studies with David Rife, assistant concertmaster of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. She is concertmaster of the Tucson Philharmonia Youth Orchestra. Zimmerman, 16, is a sophomore at University High School and studies with former University of Arizona professor Neil Tatman. He’s a member of the Tucson Philharmonia Youth Orchestra.
The SASO concerto competition is designed to recognize and support outstanding young high school musicians, encouraging them to polish performance skills and build real-life experience. It is named in honor of longtime arts patron Dorothy Vanek, who is SASO’s season sponsor for the eighth consecutive year.
“Every year we are impressed with the talent these young musicians demonstrate in their performances in the competition. Clearly there are many high-caliber young players in our state who share a passion for music,” said SASO Vice President Tim Secomb. “Selecting the winners was a real challenge for the judges.”
Johnson (whose first name is pronounced boh-bay) will perform with SASO on Friday, April 10 at Green Valley Presbyterian Church at 2800 S. Camino del Sol in Green Valley; Saturday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the DesertView Performing Arts Center in SaddleBrooke; and on Sunday, April 12 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte in northwest Tucson.
The SASO youth concerto competition is open to Arizona high school students who play any orchestral instrument, including piano. Previous first-place winners are cellist Benjamin Nead, pianist Joyce Yang, cellist Sara Page, cellist Nicholas Mariscal and pianist Rebecca Shiao. All are from Tucson except Yang, who lives in Phoenix.