Pianist, Violinist, Harpist Win SASO Youth Concerto Competition

TUCSON, AZ – Pianist Rebecca Shiao won the 2014 Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition and will perform the first movement of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra on April 5 and 6.

Shiao is a senior at Catalina Foothills High School and studies piano with Susan Chu. She won the first prize of $1,000 in the fifth annual youth competition sponsored by the orchestra.

The second place winner is violinist Carissa Powe, who won $500. She is home schooled and studies violin with Wynne Rife. Harpist Claire Thai won third and $25. Also home schooled, she studies with Christine Vivona.

SASO Vice President Tim Secomb said, “The judges were impressed with the high quality of the performances in the competition. Selecting the winners was a difficult task. This competition clearly demonstrates that there are many talented young players in our community.”

Shiao will perform with SASO on Saturday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the DesertView Performing Arts Center in SaddleBrooke and on Sunday, April 6 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo Del Norte in northwest Tucson.

Named for longtime arts patron Dorothy Vanek, the concerto competition is open to high school students. It is designed to recognize and support outstanding young musicians, encouraging them to polish performance skills and build real-life experience. Vanek is SASO’s 2013-2014 season sponsor.

Previous first-place winners of the SASO youth competition are cellist Benjamin Nead, pianist Joyce Yang of Phoenix, cellist Sara Page and cellist Nicholas Mariscal.

Founded in 1979, SASO has grown into a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a mutual love of music. The orchestra presents a wide range of compositions, including world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and popular classics. SASO brings together student, amateur and professional musicians with exceptional soloists, composers and conductors. Under the baton of Music Director Linus Lerner, this local community orchestra has twice toured China and performed at the inaugural Oaxaca Opera Festival in Mexico last summer. SASO presents five concerts each season in two locations, plus special events. For more information, visit www.sasomusic.org or call 308-6226.

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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