Students perform with music professionals

By Claire Morrow and By Claire Morrow

Winners of the annual Competitions in Music performed with the Bowling Green Philharmonia Feb. 25. After months of preparation and two rounds of auditions, four students were chosen to perform their winning solos.

Every year toward the end of the fall semester, 30-40 of both graduate and undergraduate student applicants compete for one of the four winning spots. The top spots include two graduate and two undergraduate students. There is at least one Honorable Mention awarded to a soloist in addition to the winners.

The winners of the 2016-17 Competitions in Music are junior clarinetist Stephen Dubetz, senior flutist Michelle Whitmore, first-year doctoral student Kenneth J. Cox performing flute, and master’s student pianist Peisi Luo.

Besides performance, the students can also compete on the basis of music composition. For this category, student composers submit pieces that are judged by an additional outside panel. The two winners of this competition have their pieces performed by a select University ensemble at the annual New Music Festival in early October. The music composition winners are senior Daniel Bayot and master’s student Jonathan Guelfand.

For both performance and composition, students are able to apply after consulting with their teachers and instructors in order to gage their preparedness for a competition of this magnitude.

The students perform in two rounds playing memorized music. The preliminary rounds last for three days and the final round lasts for one additional day. The judges differ from preliminary to final rounds, effectively giving the performers a blank slate for both. The judges are also brought in from various organizations and universities allowing for some diversity and outside perspective.

Doctor Emily Freeman Brown, director of the Bowling Green Philharmonia, has worked with the winners of this competition for numerous years. She has also stressed the importance of having judges from outside of the University.

“The panel is an outside committee of musicians who are brought in so that there is never any internal prejudice towards any student in any way, shape or form,” Brown said.

Doctor Nermis Mieses, assistant professor of oboe, has been the competition coordinator for the past three years. She became involved as a part of her service as a University faculty member. She loves running the competition because she has competed in similar exhibitions and enjoys being on the organization side. Dr. Mieses also helps students prepare in the sense of holding dress rehearsals and aligning schedules for the students to be able to participate.

She noted this experience is perhaps the first time these students have performed by themselves in a sizable concert hall, which adds to the stakes of this competition. The memorization portion is also a primary factor which shows the judges which contestants are truly ready. In addition, students are judges on the basis of other artistic skills and musicality.

“This is fairly nerve-racking for most of them because they don’t know these people and since this is an in-school competition, this is one of their first experiences for them to be able to play a piece at a great level a significant piece from memory,” Mieses said.

Winners of the Competitions in Music are regarded among their University faculty and peers. The winners also are able to put this competition on their resume which may help them in future job ventures. Win or lose, they often become better players as a result.

“We musicians being building our resumes years before we begin our professional studies so this competition stays in their resumes forever and helps to open doors and gain opportunities over time,” Mieses said.

She believes that through the competition she too grows as a musician and as a teacher. She is able to learn how students respond to the process and can use her findings to help students in the future.

In corroboration with the 50th anniversary of Competitions in Music, the orchestra will be performing what Dr. Brown stated were some of the most difficult pieces they’ve played to date. Because of this, the solo portions are equally as challenging for the four winners.

The orchestra performed four pieces in total for each winner. One graduate and one undergraduate flute concertos were composed by living composers, in addition to a clarinet piece written by a professor at Oberlin College. This gave both Dr. Brown and the orchestra an invaluable opportunity to perform the pieces with the composers’ original intentions in mind.

“Usually we are performing music by composers who are long gone like Beethoven,” Brown said. “We don’t get the opportunity to ask them question, but for these pieces we do and we can get their input on how they want the piece to be done.”

Applications for next year’s competition as well as a full calendar of events at the College of Musical Arts can be found through the University’s website or by calling the University’s Arts Box Office at (419) 372-8171.