Music Guild holds fifth annual scholarship competition
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If you were in the mood for dazzling classical music or to be reminded of your deep-seated regret about quitting piano lessons at age 8, then Deane Hall on Saturday night was the place to be.
Six exceptionally gifted prospective Westmont students gathered from all around the country to compete for the Music Guild Award. This $10,000 music grant is awarded in addition to the merit-based and other music scholarships they have already received. Each performed two classical pieces to an eager audience of faculty judges, parents, students, and fellow orchestra members. The six finalists consisted of two violists, two violinists, a cellist, and a vocalist.
Anna Stenzel (violin) was the winner of the prestigious Guild Scholarship. At 17, she was the youngest competitor and only musician to be accompanied by her father (not by Neil Di Maggio, the official collaborative pianist for the competition). The duo played Ziguenerwisen Op. 20 by Pablo de Saraste and Variations on a Theme of Corelli by Fritz Kreistler, two powerful pieces that are characterized by their vigorous energy and technical difficulty.
Christina Dubell (violin) also played a piece by Pablo de Saraste as well as Violin Concerto No. 5, Op 37 by Henri Vieuxtemps. Even though she has yet to graduate from the Orange County School of the Arts, Christina has already played in London, Barcelona, Prague, and Vienna with two different orchestras. At Westmont, she will continue her studies in physics/engineering.
Jenna Walters (viola) plays the violin, viola, and receives voice lessons from Professors at the University of Tennessee. In addition to performing with her two brothers at the Tennessee State Capitol, she has also played at Carnegie Hall. Jenna played Viola Concerto in D Major, Op. 1 by Carl Stamitz and Suite No. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Cameron Audras (viola) was charming to watch as he performed Arpeggione Sonata by Franz Schubert and Der Schwanendreher by Paul Hindemith. Cameron has already launched his musical career by performing with the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra, the American Youth Symphony, and his local church’s praise band.
Logan Hodgson (cello) is an extremely accomplished cellist and pianist. He has participated in various classical and chamber music groups both internationally and in his home town of Sierra Madre. On Saturday, Logan played Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major by Dmitri Shostakovich and Cello Suite No. 2 by Bach.
Elaina Crenshaw (vocalist), was the only transfer student to compete in the Guild Scholarship. She sang a spectacular rendition of Deh Vieni, Non Tardar from the famous opera “The Marriage of Figaro” (Le Nozze di Figaro) by Mozart as well as Villes from Les Illuminations by Benjamin Britten. She performed on Saturday despite the fact that she had been sick all day. Elaina is transferring from Ventura College in the fall and will continue to pursue her music degree at Westmont.
As the judges deliberated, three groups of Westmont Orchestra students (most of which also happened to be former Guild Competition participants or winners) performed for the crowd.
One of the performers, Sierra Farrar, a 2015 Guild Competition runner up, answered a few questions in an interview about the process of performing for a collegiate music competition. The Guild Scholarship has specific guidelines when it comes to choosing performance pieces. “[They] have to have two pieces of contrasting character (one fast, one slow; one major, one minor, etc.) and the performance has to be around 10 minutes long. This sometimes means that contestants have to cut off parts of their pieces but usually they can find pieces that fit [these] criteria.”
When it comes to picking a piece to perform, Sierra says that, “a very long complex piece like a concerto along with something smaller as well (like a show piece or a Bach sonata) [serve to]... show off their skill but also that is not so hard that they can't play it well. Their private teachers usually have a large influence in choosing pieces since they've played most of the common repertoire and know what would be best for their student based on their personality and learning ability.”
Scoring the performances is a challenge for the judges since they must compare many different instruments playing vastly different pieces. Sierra indicated that the five judges usually use a point system and rely on their many decades of experience to discern the quality of, “tone, intonation, and musicality.”
The evening concluded with the judges, Dr. Shasberger, Dr. Han Soo Kim, Dr. Steve Hodson, Dr. Steve Butler, and Dr. Grey Brothers congratulating each of the spectacular musicians on their performances and awarding Anna Stenzel with the grand prize.