Every morning, songbirds on Siesta Key are lucky enough to be serenaded by a 9-year-old on her violin.
“The violin imitates the sounds of the birds, and it is like a bigger bird that sings!” exclaims Julia Mount.
She’s not Snow White — but she’s close, a gentle lover of animals with a gift for music.
When she was 3, Julia began taking lessons at the Sarasota Music Academy. Her instructor is Lena Cambis, a principal violinist with the Sarasota Orchestra.
In the six years Julia has been playing, she has impressed listeners with her skill. At the age of 4, she played with the Anna Maria Island Orchestra, during its holiday show, in December 2006. In October 2011, she competed in and co-won the Edward and Ida Wilkof Young Artists Concerto Competition. Julia’s prizes included $400 and the chance to play a solo with the Sarasota Orchestra.
The prestigious music competition is comprised of two parts. She was one of only five young musicians to make it through the first round, and she was the youngest.
When it came down to naming a winner, the judges found the choice so difficult that they decided to split the prize money and allow two of the musicians the opportunity to be soloists with the Sarasota Orchestra.
Julia and Natasha Snyder, 15, were named the co-winners. Because both are violinists and students of Cambis, the recognition was a happy one, Julia says.
During the “Thrill of a Lifetime” concert Feb. 25, both performed solos on stage with the Sarasota Orchestra, at the Neel Performing Arts Center.
Prior to the appearance, Julia had to practice a lot on her own, with her teacher and with the Sarasota Orchestra.
“At first, I was a little nervous, but then it got easier,” she says. “I practiced with the conductor (Andrew Lane) a couple of times, and he was very helpful.”
Julia’s solo was Seitz’s “Student Concerto No. 4 in D Major,” a five-and-a-half-minute piece. When she finished it, the crowd filling the concert hall rewarded her with a standing ovation.
For the past two summers, Julia has attended the International Music Academy in France. The two-week intensive camp requires the students to begin classes at 9 a.m. and play until late into the evening. At the end of each day, one of the top students is put in the figurative spotlight, to perform for the other campers and judges. Julia is working extra hard with Cambis, she says, with the hope of being named one of those students this summer.
A home-schooled student, Julia practices her violin for two to two-and-a-half hours a day. She also is a member of the Sarasota Youth Orchestra’s Symphonic Strings group.
Although performing a solo is always a treat, Julia says, she enjoys the collaboration with other members of an orchestra.
“It is fun, because there are a lot of contrasts with seconds, firsts, violas, basses and cellists.”
Even though she is only 9, Julia is a huge fan not only of playing classical music but also of listening to it. Maxim Vengerov is Julia’s favorite performer, she says.
“He has the spirit. He has a lot of dynamics and very good expressions and plays really, really well,” says Julia, “I’d like to play like that, too.”