Winners of Edward & Ida Wilkof Young Artists Concerto Competition will perform solos with Sarasota Orchestra
When you’re a teenager, most of your life’s accomplishments are still in the dream stage. To experience even a taste of a dream come true is a rare treat.
Back in 1966, the Sarasota Orchestra created such an opportunity for deserving students in its Youth Orchestra program with the Edward and Ida Wilkof Young Artists Concerto Competition.
Held annually, the competition awards cash prizes to the finalists, and for the winners the opportunity to perform in concert as a featured soloist with the Sarasota Orchestra in the annual “Thrill of a Lifetime” concert.
“Imagine being 15 to 18, somewhere in there, making your debut with a professional orchestra,” says Sarasota Orchestra Director of Education Alyson Rozier.
On Feb. 29, pianist Marco Jimenez, 17, and clarinetist Lenora Galeziowski, 16, will have that experience.
Rozier says the aim of the competition when it was started was to encourage talented students to consider careers in music. Over the years the emphasis has shifted to savoring the moment.
“Music is a very difficult profession,” Rozier says. “It's hard to get into orchestras. It's even harder to be a soloist. So this may actually be their only chance to solo with an orchestra.
What a great experience.”
This year’s winners embody that point, coming into this experience with completely different perspectives.
Galeziowski, a junior at Braden River High School, will perform the first movement of Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor. Jimenez will perform the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor.
Galeziowski started playing the clarinet when she was 10. She says she had played the recorder before that, and since the clarinet looks kind of like a recorder, she figured she might be good at it. “That was my thought process at the time,” she says. Darned if she wasn’t right, though.
Thinking ahead, Galeziowski doesn’t see herself trying to be a professional musician.
“You have to be crazy, crazy, crazy good to do this as a career,” she says. “I’m not at that level.”
And she has other priorities. Her schoolwork always comes first; she only rehearses when she’s done with that. And she has other interests. She’s on her school’s tennis team. She loves the clarinet, “but I can’t imagine making this the only thing I do.”
Jimenez, who is homeschooled, practices for at least an hour each on the piano and the violin every day. Most days he also spends an hour on the organ. And then he composes — if he gets on a roll, who knows for how long. “I love composing,” he says.
Jimenez has been with with the Sarasota Youth Orchestra for 10 years, the last five with the Youth Philharmonic, where he is currently its concertmaster.
Galeziowski has been with Sarasota Youth Orchestra for four years. She says she had her eye on the “Thrill of a Lifetime” concert for a while, but waited until she and her teacher thought she was ready.
“I just thought it sounded like the most incredible experience ever to play with a professional orchestra behind you in front of an audience,” she says. “And so I was like, I have to do this.”
She says she’s a little nervous about performing in front of an audience this size. She’s heard performers talk about getting into a “zone”once the music starts, where there’s just nothing but them and their instrument.
“I know it’s a thing for some people to feel like that, but I never have,” she says. “I never get into a zone. I’m always very conscious of where I am.
“This is going to be one of the most incredible experiences I’ll ever have.”
Jimenez is one of those people who know the zone. He’s a repeat visitor. This is actually his second “Thrill of a Lifetime,” having won three years ago. In between, he’s played to packed houses at the Mahaffey Theatre in St. Petersburg, and even larger venues.
Absolutely, he has aspirations of being a professional musician. And this concert will be the latest in a long line of affirmations that he just might be crazy good enough to do it.
But Jimenez takes nothing for granted. “Just to have the opportunity to perform this piece that I love so much is amazing,” he says.
At their age, there’s no telling how many thrills lie ahead. But they both taking this thrill as a change to make a lifetime memory.