Last spring I had the honor of being one of eleven winners of the annual “Young Artist Debut!” Van Buren Concerto Competition in Portland. A project of Metro Arts, Inc, the Young Artist Debut is one of the most prestigious competitions in the Portland area. Winners receive two months of training on their concerto by Niel DePonte, conductor of the Oregon Ballet Theatre Orchestra and principal percussionist of the Oregon Symphony. The culmination of the experience is a performance as soloist with the professional Portland Metro Arts Orchestra.
I auditioned with the first movement of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole. I was slightly dubious, at first, as to what kind of advice a percussionist would have for me as a violinist, but I was in for quite a surprise. Those two months of coaching were two of the most instructive of my life. Maestro DePonte was meticulous, exacting, and demanding in his expectations. We really picked apart the Lalo by studying the score, history, and recordings of the piece. This was the first time I developed an informed interpretation of a piece and polished the piece to the point that I had complete confidence walking on stage. A major concept that we worked on together was rhythm, which I think is a sorely neglected fundamental. Having a very acute sense of rhythm helped me immensely when I got to the point of playing with the orchestra. The other major concept that we worked on was developing musicality and artistry. We worked on every note having something to say, and always remembering to take the listener on a journey. Time and time again while at Meadowmount, his words came back to me as I listened to students’ performances.
For the performance, I was extremely nervous up until I started playing. Because I knew the piece so well, I was able to take the audience on a journey. This was a great experience that I recommend highly. I learned a great deal from watching all the winning performances and I was sad when it was over. The Young Artist Debut! was broadcast live on All Classical 89.9 (performance archive here)