Violinist Tiffany Chang Wins Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Completion


Violinist Tiffany Chang won the 2016 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 in concerts on April 1, 2 and 3.

Chang, who lives in Chandler, will perform the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. She is 17 years old and a junior at Corona del Sol High School. She studies with Jing Zeng.

The competition attracted 27 entrants, ranging in age from 11 to 17. The judges included SASO Music Director Linus Lerner and several musicians in the orchestra. “This year we had a record number of competitors, and we enjoyed listening to many talented young musicians. It was very challenging to choose the winners, and we eventually awarded an additional prize and a special commendation for the youngest entrant,” said Tim Secomb, SASO vice president.

In addition to Chang, prize winners include:

  • Second prize and $500 went to Nicole Skaggs, a senior at Canyon del Oro High School who studies violin with Nokuthula Ngwenyama. Skaggs also won second prize in this youth concerto competition last year.
  • Third prize and $250 each were awarded to Hannah Lee, piano, and Levi Powe, cello. Lee is 12 years old and a sixth grader at Basis Tucson North. She studies with Ji-Young Kim. Powe is 15 and a homeschooled sophomore who studies with Mary Beth Tyndall.
  • Highly Commended was Keenan Winkler, 11, who studies cello with David Eloy and is a homeschooled six grader.

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 ninth consecutive year.

Chang will perform with SASO on Friday, April 1 at 7 p.m. at Valley Presbyterian Church at 2800 S. Camino del Sol in Green Valley; Saturday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the DesertView Performing Arts Center in SaddleBrooke; and on Sunday, April 3 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte in northwest Tucson. The program also features soprano Christi Amonson in Whitacre’s Goodnight Moon and Larry Leung in He Zhanhao’s Eternal Regret of Lin’An, performed on a traditional Chinese guzheng. The program concludes with Bruckner’s Te Deum with the SASO Chorus and soloists.

The SASO youth concerto competition is open to Arizona high school students who play any orchestral instrument, including piano. Previous first-place winners are violinist Bobae Johnson, cellist Benjamin Nead, pianist Joyce Yang, cellist Sara Page, cellist Nicholas Mariscal and pianist Rebecca Shiao. Four are Tucsonans. Johnson and Yang are from Phoenix.

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SASO’s Story

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