Exactly halfway into the Steinway Society of Riverside County’s (SSRC) annual piano Festival Competition that was being held at Xavier High School – between March 8 and 15 — the impact of COVID-19 forced closure of the high school causing an abrupt change of plans.
While junior level students (7-14 year olds) were able to complete their master classes and recitals at the school the first weekend, and adjudicators were able to select winners, the organization suddenly had to “pivot” with the loss of a public venue for seniors (14-18 year olds) the following weekend.
“We gave the senior participants an extra week to videotape their recital pieces which were sent direct to me,” said Jim McCormick, director of the Festival Awards program. “Our adjudicators had access to the videos to review them, decide on the five winners and give written comments to each student. Unfortunately, the senior participants were unable to participate in the master classes, which is an important part of the educational program.”
McCormick noted that two students from Idyllwild had to leave for home immediately because of the Coronavirus shelter-in-place mandate, so there was a field of 12 instead of 14.Junior level winners are Colin Ma, 13, from Highland, Dr. Angelica Prodan, teacher; Matthew Sakata, 11 from Murrieta, Yiyi Ku, teacher; Lucas Schaefer, 13 from Murrietta, Yiyi Ku, teacher; Alexa Vargas, 14 from Corona, Linette Rodriguez, teacher; and Jadon Wu, 13, from Redlands, Dr. Angelica Prodan, teacher.
Senior winners are Isabella Cao, 16, from Rancho Cucamonga, Agatha Hou, teacher; Kathleen Gurning, 14, from Fontana, Dr. Elvin Rodriguez, teacher; Matthew Gurning, 17, from Fontana, Dr. Elvin Rodriguez, teacher; Aaron Kwan, 16, from Rancho Cucamonga, Agatha Hou, teacher; and Jiani Scarlett Liang, 18, from Idyllwild, Doug Ashcraft, teacher.
Adjudicators were Antoinette Perry, associate professor of classical performance and competition at USC Thornton School of Music; and Nelms McKelvain, former chair of the piano faculty of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, and musical director of award-winning equity-waiver musical shows in and around Hollywood.
McCormick has directed the Steinway Society of Riverside County’s Awards Festival since its inception in 2005; the Festival includes a master class where students receive lessons with the master teacher as well as participate in the recital.
“This is a learning opportunity for them to gain confidence and performance experience as well as earn awards,” he said. “Five winners are selected at each level from a maximum of 15 participants. Though students that have developed a performance personality tend to win over those that are perhaps less confident, the experience can help build that confidence. Some of the most sensitive and musical young performers sometimes need that extra boost to bolster their self-assurance. Many of the students return year after year, and it is a pleasure to hear them grow and mature.”
The Festival Winners Concert – originally slated for May 13 at the Rancho Mirage Library – will be rescheduled for the fall. The concert is a great opportunity to hear talented, up-and-coming musicians perform before a live audience; free and open to the public.
About the Steinway Society of Riverside County
Celebrating 19 years of bringing music to children, Founder and CEO Ruth Moir said, “The Steinway Society began presenting classical concerts in the schools as an enrichment for the children in 2002. In 2008, school budgets were severely cut, thus eliminating important programs like music, art and theatre arts.
Learning music at an early age helps young brains develop intellectual skills such as math and language as well as motor skills and coordination, voice and body movement, teamwork and listening skills. Steinway is proud to annually serve more than 35,000 children in all three school districts. We continue Steinway Society’s mission to promote excellence in piano performance and bring music into the schools.”
SSRC offers a number of special events designed to showcase young musical talent as well as raise funds to continue its mission. However, this year, due to restrictions for public gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, SSRC has had to suspend in-school programs and postpone seasonal fundraising events. Please consider supporting SSRC with a donation to carry its programs forward for the coming year.
For information and to become a donor, visit www.steinwayriverside.org.