(NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ) -- The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) will present a virtual recital featuring the 2021 Concerto Competition Winners on Friday, March 26 at 7:00pm EST on WhartonArts.tv. The concert will feature this year’s first place winner, violinist Samantha Liu; second place winner, clarinetist Alex Cha; and third place winners violinist James Song and pianist Sarah Ouyang; as well as the 2020 Concerto Competition Winner, French hornist Thomas McGrath.
New Jersey’s largest youth orchestra program holds the annual competition for current members of the NJYS Youth Symphony with the top winner earning the opportunity to perform with the ensemble at a prestigious concert hall. This year, the competition was held virtually with 19 entrants performing for two guest adjudicators, Ilmar Gavilan, violinist of Harlem Quartet and Dr. Mark Laycock, professor of orchestral studies at Wichita State University.
Said Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Helen H. Cha-Pyo, “It is truly inspiring to watch these talented and dedicated young musicians completely immerse themselves in the music and perform their hearts out. I always knew that music and youth are a dynamic combination, but it seems more powerful during the pandemic.”
First place winner Samantha Liu of Basking Ridge, a junior at Ridge High School, will perform the first movement from Barber’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14. She has studied violin for nine years with Yousun Kim and has been a member of the New Jersey Youth Symphony for six years. She wants to thank her violin teacher, her NJYS friends, and Artist Director and Principal Conductor Helen H. Cha-Pyo, all of whom inspire her to be a better musician. She looks forward to making live music together in the spring.
Second place winner Alex Cha of Westfield, a senior at Westfield High School, will perform the first movement from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622. A proud member of the New Jersey Youth Symphony’s Clarinet Quartet and Youth Symphony, he has been playing the clarinet for over nine years and currently studies with Jo-Ann Sternberg at the Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Division. Accolades in his musical career include placing first in the National Artists Competition and second place in the International Grande Music Competition as well as performing with the New Jersey Regional and All-State Bands.
Third place winner James Song of New Providence, a senior at the Union County Magnet High School, will perform the Finale from Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26. He studies with Oleg Pavlov and joined the New Jersey Youth Symphony in his freshman year of high school as a member of the NJYS Youth Symphony. He has placed in several competitions, most notably First Place in the American Protege International Concerto Competition (2020), Grand Prix Winner in the Concert Festival International Competition (2020), and Second Place in the American Protege International Piano & Strings Competition (2017).
Third place winner Sarah Ouyang of Basking Ridge, a junior at Ridge High School, will perform the first movement from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488. A young musician who loves both the piano and the cello, she studies piano with Gloria Chu and cello with Gerall Hieser. She has performed as a piano soloist with Sinfonica del Festival di Chioggia under the baton of Maestro Pietro Perini at the International Festival Musica in Laguna in Chioggia, Italy, as well as performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 with the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Charles Prince. As a cellist, she joined the New Jersey Youth Symphony in 2015 and has been a proud member of the NJYS Youth Symphony since 2018.
The 2020 New Jersey Youth Symphony Concerto Competition Winner Thomas McGrath of Princeton, a senior at Princeton High School, will perform Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 1 in D major, K. 412. He studies with Kathryn Mehrtens at The College of New Jersey and has performed with the New Jersey All-State Wind Ensemble and All-State Orchestra (Principal horn, 2020), Central Jersey Regional Orchestra, and Philadelphia Sinfonia.
The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS), founded in 1979, is a tiered orchestral program offering ensemble education for students in grades 3-12 across New Jersey. NJYS has grown from one orchestra of 65 students to over 500 students in 15 different orchestras and ensembles, including the internationally recognized Youth Symphony. NJYS ensembles have performed in venues including the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Carnegie Hall, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. NJYS has received numerous prestigious awards for its adventurous programming from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and has had six European tours, including participation in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Festival and Competition (Vienna), winning First Prizes in July 2014 and 2017.
The New Jersey Youth Symphony is a program of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts. Wharton is New Jersey’s largest non-profit performing arts education organization serving over 1,500 students of all ages and abilities through a range of classes and ensembles. In addition to the New Jersey Youth Symphony, programs include the Paterson Music Project, an El Sistema-inspired program that uses music as a vehicle for social change by empowering and inspiring children through the community experience of ensemble learning and playing in its hometown of Paterson. Beginning with early childhood music classes for toddlers, the Performing Arts School offers 500 private lessons and group classes each week, ensuring there is something for everyone of all ages and abilities.