Prodigious Talent on Display at Palisades Symphony Orchestra’s 49th Annual Young Artists Award Competitions

Palisades Charter High School’s Mercer Hall was transformed into Vienna’s Musikverein for one night only as virtuosic young talents playing string, brass and woodwind instruments brought to life Palisades Symphony Orchestra’s 49th Annual Young Artists Award Competitions.

The June 9 evening included student soloist performances of works by Mozart, Saint-Saens, Boccherini, Paganini, Korngold, Barber and Hummel conducted by Palisades Symphony Founder and Director Joel Lish.

Palisades Symphony, founded in 1966, is the Palisades’ own independent community orchestra, performing seven concerts each year: three with instrumental soloists, two with Brentwood-Palisades Chorale and vocal soloists, a concert performance of an opera, and a Young Artist Concert to recognize emerging musical talent.

The Young Artists Award Competitions are open to elementary, middle and high school students living in Pacific Palisades, Topanga, Malibu, Santa Monica or Brentwood.

Students are required to play a movement of a classical concerto by memory at a March audition. The audition is judged by three professional musicians: a wind instrument player, a stringed instrument player and a pianist.

This year’s judges were keyboardist Yolanda Klappert, winds player Judy Collas and strings player Becky Rodman.

“It was a very memorable concert,” Rodman told the Palisadian-Post. “These young musicians display so much talent, and go on to become the great soloists of tomorrow.”

Several international soloists have emerged from the Young Artists Award Competitions, including Tim Fain, Andrew van Oyen, Nina Evtuhov, Hun Ju Sohn and Nokuthula Ngwenyama.

Palisadian soloist Max von der Ohe, a sixth grader at Paul Revere Charter Middle School, commenced the evening with Leroy Anderson’s “Bugler’s Holiday,” a trumpet piece Rodman called “adorable, wonderful and very technical.” Von der Ohe was co-winner for grade level 1–6 alongside Roosevelt School sixth grader Landon Fringer.

Next was Harvard-Westlake eighth grade violinist Matthew Lee Chang, who played Paganini’s “Violin Concerto in D, Op.6, First Movement.” Chang was co-winner for grade level 7–9 with Palisadian pianist (and fellow Harvard-Westlake eighth grader) Audrey Yang, who played Saint-Saens “Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 22, First Movement.”

A brief intermission was followed by Santa Monica High School freshman cellist Ethan La Chapelle, who played Luigi Boccherini’s “Cello Concerto in B Flat Major, First Movement.” La Chapelle was this year’s winner of the Chamber Music Palisades Scholarship, created by flutist Susan Greenberg and other founding members of Chamber Music Palisades.

California Virtual Academy freshman David Hung played Paganini’s “Violin Concerto in D, Op. 6, First Movement,” taking home the coveted Alfred Newman Award created by violinists David and Krystyna Newman.

Santa Monica Crossroads School senior (and new Julliard School freshman) Amy Sze played Wolfgang Korngold’s “Violin Concerto in D Major, Second Movement” and was co-winner for grade level 10-12 alongside Harvard-Westlake senior Megan Lee Chang, who played Samuel Barber’s “Violin Concerto, First Movement.”

The evening concluded with Pali High sophomore McCartney Hutchinson’s performance of Hummel’s “Trumpet Concerto in E Flat, First Movement.”

“I had never played as a soloist with an orchestra before,” Hutchinson said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Hutchinson was this year’s recipient of the Director Scholarship, underwritten by a generous donor and awarded at the behest of the music director.

“The Young Artists concert is always my favorite of the year,” Palisades Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors President Eva Holberg told the Post. “When these young artists play, they’re always so full of excitement and enthusiasm. Many of them come back year after year, since you can start in elementary and play all the way through high school.”

I also admire the parents, who drive their kids to and from every practice. The community around orchestral music is great. The environment is very healthy and the love of the music is something that stays with you for the rest of your life.”