Winners of Young Artists Competition perform Sunday

By March 24, 2011

Pianist Lara Downes organizes the Mondavi Center Young Artists Competition, which will present a showcase concert at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre. Courtesy photo

Pianist Lara Downes organizes the Mondavi Center Young Artists Competition, which will present a showcase concert at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre. Courtesy photo

It’s that time of the year again — time to enjoy the winners of this year’s Mondavi Center Young Artists Competition as they present a showcase concert in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre on Sunday at 2 p.m.

This will be the sixth year for the competition, and pianist Lara Downes, who organizes the event, told The Enterprise that several changes have been made this time around as the competition’s reputation has grown.

“This is the first year the competition was open to people from all around the country,” Downes said. “Until this year, it was a statewide competition, only open to people from California. Now we have national eligibility. That was the big change.”

She added, “We got applicants from all over, including one finalist from the Sacramento area, pianist Ann Deng from El Dorado Hills, in the junior division.”

There’s another procedural change.

“We have added a semifinal round, so we now have three rounds for judging,” Downes said. “The first round involved taped performances that we reviewed in October. We narrowed down the field, and then held a live semifinal round in January.

“Our final round will be held on Saturday — we’ll have up to 19 performers competing. We will announce the winners on Saturday evening, and then we’ll have a concert with as many as six of the winners on Sunday.”

There will be contestants in multiple categories: ensembles, pianists, vocalists and instrumentalists, ranging in age from 8 to 21.

“Distribution-wise, we have more vocalists participating this year,” Downes said. “The other change this year, we dropped the very young vocalist category. Now, the vocal category is for pre-professionals, ages 17 to 21.

“Another thing that’s new and different this year — we commissioned a young composer from the Bay Area, Ryan Brown, to write a piece that is required for the competition. We like the idea of making use of a new commissioned work, to ensure that the kids are playing something truly contemporary. This will be an annual feature of the competition.”

Brown also wrote a piece for the January recital in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre by 2007 Young Artists Competition Grand Prize winner Kenrick Tam, a pianist from the Bay Area who is now a junior at Harvard. And Tam’s appearance in January represented another change.

“The Mondavi Center’s Debut Series (one of several subscription series that the center offers) will annually feature one of the past winner winners in the Mondavi Center Young Artist Competition,” Downes said.

This will help launch the competition winners on their budding careers as concert artists.

Judges this year include Christian Baldini, conductor of the UC Davis Symphony; composer Ryan Brown; Sheri Greenawald, of the San Francisco Opera Center; Rod Gideons, general manager of Sacramento Opera; and Aileen James, who organizes the In Concert Sierra series in Nevada County, and formerly served on the piano faculty at Stanford University and Santa Clara University.

Support for the sixth annual Mondavi Center Young Artists Competition came from Lois and John Crowe, Mary Horton and Barbara K. Jackson — all veteran supporters of the performing arts in Davis.

Tickets for Sunday’s 2 p.m. concert are $20 general, $10 for students, available at http://www.mondaviarts.org or (530) 754-2787.

And yes, plans are already under way for next year’s competition, with semifinal events at the Mondavi Center beginning Jan. 7.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.

Jeff Hudson

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