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Young Artists

More than 200 talented young musicians from southwest Idaho have competed in the Symphony’s Young Artists Competition over the past 10 years, and 25 winners in our junior and senior division have been chosen to perform in our annual Young Artists Concert. Here’s a look some of our past winners and what they are doing now.

Michelle-Hembree-higher-resMichelle Hembree, French Horn

In 2011, Michelle performed Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto, first movement, with the Meridian Symphony. She is now a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and is studying French horn performance with Randy Gardner. A double major, she also is pursuing a degree in Industrial Management.

Michelle currently is principal chair in her Conservatory orchestra. She has played Schumann’s Konzertstuck for four horns with the Seven Hills Sinfonietta and has performed in master classes with David Griffin, Jessie McCormick, and Richard King. After graduation, she hopes to play in a professional orchestra.

“I remember being very excited to play with the MSO,” Michelle says. “It was a great opportunity to collaborate with the orchestra in a friendly environment, and sparked my interest in pursuing music.”

j-audus-high-resJacqueline Audas, Violin

Jacqueline was a Young Artists winner in both 2010 and 2013, when she performed Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, first movement. She is now a sophomore at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she is majoring in violin performance at the Shepherd School of Music.

Jaqueline recently played the Sibelius Violin Concerto with a local orchestra in Houston. She is involved in the orchestra and chamber programs at the Shepherd School, as well as a solo study program.  Jacqueline plans to be a professional musician – perhaps pursuing a combination of a solo, orchestral, chamber, and a teaching career.

“I had a fabulous time playing with the Meridian Symphony,” Jacqueline says. “It was a valuable experience and a great first start to playing solo pieces with orchestras!” She encourages musicians to follow their dreams. “Even if you fail the first time, you’ll succeed eventually if you keep trying, and that’s really all anyone will remember.”

ethan-blackEthan Davis

Ethan performed the Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor with the Meridian Symphony in 2012. He now attends Brigham Young University and is pursuing a double major in Economics and French with a minor in Strategy. He also studies piano at BYU with Rob Hancock.

Ethan recently returned from an LDS mission in the south of France. “Throughout my mission in France I was able to play for individuals and groups. I loved playing the pianos placed in train stations for crowds of 30 and more who would watch,” he says.

“It was an immense privilege to work with Meridian Symphony conductor Tom Phelps and all the talented musicians who volunteered their time to create beautiful music,” Ethan says. “Rigorous and demanding as it was to practice and rehearse for the performance, I remember feeling so incredibly satisfied after releasing the last chord and feeling the adrenaline pump through my body. All in all, it was an immensely valuable experience to prepare for the competition, rehearse with the group, and perform with the Symphony for hundreds of people.”

Ethan offers these tips for future Young Artists: “Perform with confidence. Practice playing with your accompanist to get used to the new style. Of course, listening to your favorite recording over and over can help reinforce how the solo instrument is supposed to fit in with the orchestral accompaniment.”

After graduation, Ethan hopes to begin his career in management consulting, and then follow new opportunities as they present themselves.

ChristaChrista Cole, Violin

In 2011, Christa performed Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3, 3rd movement, with the Symphony. She is currently a 3rd-year violin performance major studying at Oberlin Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio, under the tutelage of David Bowlin. In addition to performance, she also is studying music theory and will be giving a presentation at the McGill Graduate Theory Symposium this spring.

After graduating from Oberlin, Christa plans to pursue graduate studies in music theory with the eventual goal of becoming a music theory professor at a conservatory or university. She would also like to continue to play violin in a chamber music setting and teach a few violin students.

“I remember the invaluable experience of working with a large group of people to create a cohesive, musical performance,” she says about her experience performing with the Meridian Symphony. “This unique opportunity was truly invaluable, and it presented me with unexpected challenges that helped me grow as a collaborative musician.”

Christa encourages young musicians interested in competing in future Young Artists Contests to “practice hard and go for it!”

“I participated in the competition many times before I won, and just competing is a wonderful experience. Getting feedback from professionals who don’t know your playing is incredibly helpful, and I learned so much from just those comment sheets,” she says.

kathy-audusKatherine Audas, Cello

Katherine performed Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme” with the Symphony in 2009, and Saint-Saëns’ “Allegro Appassionato in 2007. She attends the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, Texas and is pursuing a major in cello performance.

She hopes to be a cello soloist for a few years, as well as part of an ensemble and also an orchestra at some point. “I would also like to teach at a university level one day, as well as having my own studio where I live,” she says.

Katherine was only 11 when she first performed with the Symphony. “It was so fun, and everyone was so friendly,” she remembers. “Since it was also my first performance with an orchestra, I will always look back on it as a special moment in my life,” she says.

There’s much to be gained by competing in contests such as the Young Artists Competition, she says. “Regardless of whether or not you are chosen, you get advice from the judges and you put yourself out there to pursue your performance goals.”

lauren-vanderveldenLauren Vandervelden, Violin

In 2014, Lauren performed Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen” (Gypsy Airs) with the Symphony. She currently is a student at Boise High School. She currently studies with Sarn Oliver, a first violinist in the San Francisco Symphony, and with composer Philip Wharton, of New York City.

After high school, Lauren hopes to pursue a double major in violin and composition in order to play with a major symphony and compose for a variety of ensembles.

In 2015, Lauren was the MTNA Senior String Northwestern Division Alternate and later that year performed Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto and appeared as concertmaster with the Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.  For composition, she has received several national awards, including Honorable Mention in the ASCAP Morton Gould Student Composer Award and BMI Student Composer Award in 2015, Second Place in MTNA in 2016, and First Place in NFMC 2015.

Lauren notes that performing with the Meridian Symphony enhanced her ability to collaborate with other musicians. “Any aspiring young instrumentalist should seriously consider this generous opportunity, for it would give them an idea of what it is like to work with a full symphonic orchestra and perform a large scale work in a supportive setting.”

Nolan-Nguyen-TranNolan Nguyen-Tran, Piano

Nolan performed J.C. Bach’s Concerto in D Major, 1st movement, with the Symphony in 2011. He is now a junior at Columbia High School in Nampa. He continues to study piano and is currently working on repertoire for upcoming competitions. Someday, Nolan hopes to become a concert pianist.

Nolan says he remembers trembling with nerves as he waited backstage to perform with the Symphony. “However, once I sat down and felt the warmth of the lights above, I was so relaxed. It was just the music and me.” His debut performance gave him a glimpse of what his future career might be as a concert pianist.

“My advice for young musicians is to take every chance and opportunity to enter competitions,” he says. “It will bring your music to a whole new level.”

elizabeth-leeElizabeth Lee, Violin

Elizabeth performed the Glazunov Violin Concerto with the Symphony in 2015. She currently is a junior at Boise High School and studies violin with Craig Purdy.

Elizabeth performs with the Boise High chamber and symphonic orchestra and in the Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. In February, she performing with the High School Honors Orchestra in Carnegie Hall in New York.

“I remember the thrill of playing with an orchestra, especially with such a full audience; it was a great experience sharing my interpretation of the music with a larger group of people,” she says. She advises future contestants to not be afraid of their piece but to own it. “If you have fun, the judges will, too!” she says.

After high school, she hopes to pursue a degree in business. “But I plan on taking my violin to college,” she says.

john-shiehJohn Shieh, Piano

John performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, with the Symphony in 2014. He is a 9th grade honor student at Centennial High School and currently studies with Halimah Brugger.

John also plays violin with the Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and plays varsity tennis for his school. Some advice he would give would be to continue to work hard at everything.