Seattle University’s chamber music students may be accustomed to performing in small ensembles, but this Friday, May 16, they will have the opportunity to perform as soloists in Seattle U’s fifth annual Concerto Competition. The Concerto Competition is an annual event in which freshman, sophomore and junior-year music students perform solo works. Three local professional musicians are invited to serve as judges for the competition. “The music faculty here really doesn’t have any say in who wins,” said Quinton Morris, director of Chamber and Instrumental Music. “We’re completely removed from that whole judging process. I think that’s good because it’s fair, and it also creates a professional environment for the students.” The student with the best performance wins a $600 music scholarship and an opportunity to perform as a guest soloist with a local community orchestra. In addition, the first, second and third place winners get to perform at Seattle U’s annual Music Convocation this fall. This year’s Concerto Competition contestants are violinists Grant Hanner and Mariya Ksondzyk, violists Chris Baltazar, Milena Marlier, Chyna Mapel and Emily O’Leary, and cellists Dahae Cheong, Aaron Hauser and Cealice Kennison. “I think the competition
is good because it allows students to really bring out the best that is within them,” Morris said. “It’s anyone’s prize to win.” The performances each year feature a variety of diverse solo repertoire, allowing students to step out and fully showcase their individuality and technical prowess as solo musicians. “Solo performance opportunities are key to establishing yourself as an artist and as an individual, for auditioning for orchestra or chamber positions,” Hanner said, who will perform the third movement of “Symphonie Espagnole” by Édouard Lalo at this year’s competition. “It’s got a lot of cool Spanish rhythms, it’s very dramatic and there are a lot of different characters that I have to convey; it’s very quintessential Spanish music from the 19th century.” Many of the students have been working on their competition pieces since fall quarter. For them, the Concerto Competition is a celebration of all their hard work and progress as individual musicians this year. “Playing in the Concerto Competition gives us the unique opportunity of showcasing our soloistic talents and sharing that with an audience,” Hauser said. “We don’t really view it as a competition; we view it as a performance opportunity.” This is Hauser’s third year performing in the Concerto Competition. As a cellist, he is looking forward to performing a piece which fully showcases his instrument’s solo sound. “Chamber music, as a cellist, is playing accompanying lines or lyrical lines that are really beautiful, but they don’t showcase the true potential and the true virtuosity that a cello can actually produce,” he said. Hauser is performing two movements of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor at this year’s competition. “The first movement is sort of this lyrical but still virtuosic, really heartfelt piece,” he said. “The second movement is this fast, virtuosic thing where I’m flying up and down the fingerboard; it’s like I’m doing finger gymnastics up there.” Aside from celebrating each instrument’s individual potential, the competition also features a wide range of musical repertoire within each instrument. “Since we have four violists performing this year, it’s awesome for people to see the range and the diversity of viola repertoire, which people otherwise wouldn’t really see,” Mapel said, who won second place in last year’s Concerto Competition. This year she is performing “Lyric Movement” by Gustav Holst. “Holst’s ‘Lyric Movement’ is an extremely expressive piece that evokes so much emotion for the listener,” she said. “The theme can be intense at times but also so moving, just floating against the background.” Although the competition can be nerve-wracking, there is a strong sense of camaraderie and support between all of the students. For them, the competition is less about the prizes and more about showcasing their musical progress. “Whether I win anything or not, I just want to do really well for myself because I’ve made a lot of progress in the past year and I want my family and friends to see that,” Mapel said. Furthermore, the competition allows each student to showcase his or her own personality and creativity as a soloist. “It’s worthwhile because they’re able to express who they are artistically as a solo player,” Morris said. “It’s another way for us to celebrate who we all are as artists.” The Concerto Competition is on Friday, May 16 at 6 p.m. in the Campion Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.