Four Student Musicians Win SASO Youth Concerto Competition

TUCSON, AZ – Cellist Benjamin Nead won the 2013 Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition presented by the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra. He’ll perform with the orchestra on April 6 and 7.

Nead, 17, won the first prize of $1,000 and the opportunity to solo with SASO. In last year’s competition, he placed second and won $500. A junior at University High School, he studies with Mary Beth Tyndall. He will play selections from Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor. Three years ago, Nead joined the SASO cello section for its first tour of China.

Three other winners were selected – including a sister and brother. The second-place winner is Carissa Powe, who received $500. The home-schooled violinist studies with Wynne Rife.

Two contestants were awarded equal third prizes – cellist Levi Powe and pianist Cameron Williams. Each received a $250 prize. Powe, Carissa’s brother, also is home schooled. Like Nead, he studies with Mary Beth Tyndall. Williams attends Basis Tucson North and studies with Tannis Gibson.

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.”

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

This was the fourth annual youth competition presented by SASO. The competition is open to high school students who play any orchestral instrument including piano. Named for longtime arts patron Dorothy Vanek, the competition is designed to recognize and support outstanding young musicians, encouraging them to polish performance skills and build real-life experience. Vanek is SASO’s 2012-2013 season sponsor. Previous first-place winners of the SASO youth competition are pianist Joyce Yang, a Desert View High School student from Phoenix, who won last year and performed the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor. Cellist Sara Page, a University High School student, won the second annual competition in 2011 and performed the first movement of Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor. Cellist Nicholas Mariscal, also a University High School student, won first prize in 2010 and performed the first movement of the Cello Concerto in D minor by Edouard Lalo.

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 recently toured China for the second time. SASO presents five concerts each season in two locations, plus special events. For more information, visit or call 308-6226.

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SASO’s Story

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