SASO’s 2022 Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition winners announced after the largest competition in the organization’s history

The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra recently welcomed 32 young musicians to the Fred Fox School of Music at the University of Arizona to compete before a panel of judges.  Named in honor of longtime arts patron Dorothy Vanek, the annual competition takes place in early January and gives students the chance to develop their performance skills and build real-life experience. The competition features two age divisions with cash prizes and first place awardees are given the chance to perform with the orchestra. 

15-year old pianist Nina Yu stood out among the record number of applicants, taking the first place prize of $1000 in the Senior Division. Yu is an Arizona native and sophomore at Hamilton High School. She was recently invited to perform at Carnegie Hall after placing second in the 2021 American Protégé International Concerto Competition. Nina will perform the third movement of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F Major with SASO on March 12 and 13th.

Rachel Gardner won the Junior Division and will be awarded $350 at the concert on March 13th. The 14-year-old violinist from Gilbert performed the first movement of Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto in D major.

SASO’s thirteenth annual youth competition attracted entrants from Phoenix, Chandler, Gilbert, Surprise, Oro Valley, Sierra Vista and Tucson. The panel of judges included SASO musicians and professional music educators. “The level of the competition was as high as ever this year,” said Tim Secomb, vice president of the orchestra and member of the panel, adding that “hearing these talented young musicians made a great impression on the judges.”

Nina Yu will perform with SASO on Saturday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the DesertView Performing Arts Center in SaddleBrooke, and on Sunday, March 13 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo Del Norte in northwest Tucson. The program also includes Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with guest pianist Andrea Trovato.  Tucson Flute Club is featured in Sun Flight by contemporary American composer Anthony Holland and the program ends with a rendition of Igor Stravinsky’s explosive Firebird Suite.

Senior division (15+)

First Prize: Nina Yu, piano $1000 prize

Second Prize: Jisue Choi, piano $500 prize

Third Prize: Laura Roland, violin $250 prize

Junior division (ages 14 and under)

First Prize: Rachel Gardner, violin $350 prize

Second Prize: Sophie Kim, cello $250 prize

Third Prize: Sarah Roland, cello $150 prize

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