The three winners of the Edward & Ida Wilkof Young Artists Concerto Competition get to perform as soloists with the Sarasota Orchestra.
Everyone’s teenage years are marked by many milestones. From getting their driver’s license to applying for college, teenagers experience a wide variety of “firsts” throughout this formative period.
Three local teens can soon add “played as soloists with the Sarasota Orchestra” to that list of firsts.
The Edward & Ida Wilkof Young Artists Concerto Competition is an annual competition in which students from Sarasota, Manatee and some areas of Charlotte County who are members of the Sarasota Youth Orchestra apply, select a concerto they’ve been working on for more than a year, and perform it for a panel of judges.
From there, six or so young musicians make it to the second round, during which they perform the same piece for both judges and a crowd in a public concert format. Finally, the judges select the winner (or winners), who win a monetary prize.
But that’s not all they get. These talented students also get to perform their piece as a soloist backed up by the Sarasota Orchestra, and then play side by side with the professionals during the finale of the concert, which is appropriately named “Thrill of a Lifetime.”
“They’ve played for judges, but to get to play with a professional orchestra — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Sarasota Orchestra Director of Education Alyson Rozier.
This year, the winners are violinist Andrea Guaita, 16; clarinetist Michael Miller, 18; and clarinetist Rishab Ramamurthy, 18, who are all also students of Sarasota Orchestra musicians.
These three winners will take the stage with not only the Sarasota Orchestra, but also the Youth Philharmonic, one of the seven ensembles that make up Sarasota Youth Orchestra.
Like most of the students in the Youth Philharmonic, Guaita, Miller and Ramamurthy have been playing orchestral music most of their lives, and the process that goes into preparing their winning concerto was even more vigorous than their music career has been thus far.
“One week I would wake up at 3 a.m. and go outside and play my concerto” — Andrea Guaita
“One week I would wake up at 3 a.m. and go outside and play my concerto,” Guaita says. “That is when I’m dead tired and I’m at my worst, so I’m preparing for whatever may happen.”
Guaita says she spent hours day and night practicing and going over the piece with her private teacher, Lena Cambis, and other experienced musicians whom she looks to for advice.
Her process of preparing for the concert, however, has been less intense — she already won, after all.
Guaita says after the competition, she took a two-week break from the piece, “Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso,” before picking it up again.
The students have eight rehearsals on their own before the big night and then two with the professionals, the latter of which can double as a mentoring session for students who want to pursue a professional music career.
“They get time to talk with the professionals and see who they studied with and how they prepared for auditions,” Rozier says. “This is their chance to ask anything to 40, almost 50 orchestra members who have been through what they’re about to go through.”
Guaita says the process has renewed her belief that this is a path she can pursue.
“I definitely feel more motivated after this competition to continue with music,” she says. “I was discouraged about it before ... but this is really motivating to see that there’s better things ahead if you put hard work into it.”