Four School of Music students take center stage in President's Concert
The 46th annual President’s Concert took place this past weekend, featuring the Arizona Symphony Orchestra and 2018-19 Concerto Competition winners. The concert was presented by the Fred Fox School of Music and held in Crowder Hall on Friday, Feb. 1 and Saturday, Feb. 2.
The four Concerto Competition winners were student soloists selected from each area of the School of Music: wind and percussion, voice, strings and keyboard.
The students competed last November with their choice of song, accompanied by an orchestra.
Minjun Dong won with his piano performance of Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, which he also performed at the concert. Performances for each soloist are typically limited to 15 minutes, but Dong asked to perform his entire piece, which was around 20 minutes in length, and was allowed.
“This piece is one of my favorite pieces,” Dong said. “I starting looking at it when I was a very young age, and I feel happy every time I play it ... This Concerto means a lot, and a lot of people love it, and if I play the first movement without cutting anything, it’s always a good thing.”
Dong stated that he had never played with an orchestra before this concert, and was told by his teacher, School of Music professor John Milbauer, to audition for the chance to play that specific piece with the Arizona Symphony Orchestra. Dong competed one morning in late November and found out he was selected later that same day.
While he was getting his master’s degree in San Francisco, Dong’s teacher personally recommended him to come to UA and play under the guidance of Milbauer.
“I think University of Arizona is meant to be part of my life,” Dong said. “It’s destiny, I guess.”
Sean Peter Bresemann, assistant conductor for the Arizona Symphony Orchestra, is in his first year as a doctoral student at UA. This was the first time Bresemann was a part of the President’s Concert.
Breseman stated that each instrumentalist in the first round of the competition auditions primarily for a panel of UA faculty and are then narrowed down to finalists. Finalists then had to perform from memory before a separate panel, where four are selected as the winners.
“It was a blast,” Bresemann said. “I thought it was a ton of fun both last night and tonight ... The thing that I’ve noticed at the UA is a really impressive community that wants to come to these concerts, and that is so refreshing and so essential for a quality music program.”
Rehearsals for the President’s Concert began just after the new year. Bresemann said there are rehearsals with just the orchestra at first so they can work on the music before bringing in the soloists.
Another of the four soloists was Diana Yusupov, a cellist who competed in the string division of the competition. She played Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Cello Concerto in C Major, Op. 37, which was the last solo performance of the night.
“It’s exciting. It’s a great honor to play with those many great string players that you have to compete against,” Yusupov said.
Yusupov is a doctoral student of music performance at the UA and plans to teach the cello professionally.
Ivo Shin, playing the flute, and Erika Burkhart, a soprano singer, were the other two soloists for the concert, performing first and second, respectively.
Following Yusupov’s performance of Korngold, Thomas Cockrell, head conductor for the Arizona Symphony Orchestra, took the stage to give a brief history on John Williams, famous conductor and composer, whose overture from the movie “The Cowboys” is what the orchestra ended with. Cockrell also spoke of Williams’ widely known compositions for movies such as “Jaws,” the Star Wars series and “E.T.,” as well as noting Williams’ time at UA taking music classes.
Cockrell mentioned the importance of including the sounds of the west in the score for “The Cowboys.” The mooing of cows and the galloping of horses played through the speakers as he spoke, causing laughter in the audience. Cockrell then took his place at the conductor’s podium to finish out the concert with the piece, which was met with a standing ovation from the audience to end the night.
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