Five years ago when Janae Codner, then 8, soloed in her first Utah Symphony-Deseret News "Salute to Youth" concert, she was not only the youngest performer - she was also one of the most experienced. Ditto her return in 1987, in a complete performance of the Weber Konzertstueck that, as I remarked at the time, would have done credit to a pianist three times her age.
At 13, she's still the youngest of the eight soloists who will be appearing with the orchestra at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Symphony Hall. And she's still one of the most experienced, with not only her Utah Symphony appearances behind her but also five with the Utah Valley Symphony, several with various other orchestras and solo recitals as far away as Florida and California. In addition to which the Irene Peery pupil has consistently taken top honors in the Young Keyboard Artists Association and Stravinsky Awards international piano competitions and in all four divisions - elementary through collegiate - at the Utah State Fair."You'd think after performing that many times you wouldn't get nervous," Janae says from her home in Provo, "but I still do. But if you're prepared, you really have nothing to worry about. Especially with this orchestra. They're always so precise and on the beat. When you're onstage with them it's easy to have fun."
Tuesday Janae, and presumably her audience, will have fun with the finale of the Moszkowski Piano Concerto, a piece in which that is probably the best approach, given its melodiousness and technical razzle-dazzle.
But Janae isn't the only experienced young artist on Tuesday's program. Consider soprano Susan Huff, who at 25, the other end of this year's age spectrum, has to her credit everything from soloing in last year's Utah Symphony Chorus-Deseret News "Messiah" Sing-In to belting out the national anthem at Utah Jazz games.
In between come leads in such diverse operatic-cum-musical-theater ventures as "The Mikado" and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," both for City Rep, and, under Naomi Farr's tutelage at the University of Utah, Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."
"That's when they still had enough money to do full operas," Susan says of her years at the U. And it is Mozart she will be singing Tuesday, this time the concert aria "Mia Speranza Adorata," composed for his sister-in-law Aloysia Lange.
Even in a concert setting, however, she says she is grateful for her musical-theater training. "You've got to know how to interpret a piece just as you would a monologue and make it interesting. As it happens, this is quite a dramatic piece, but it will still be a challenge to keep everyone with me."
Another of this year's soloists who is no stranger to the Symphony Hall stage is 15-year-old Rosalie Lund, who in 1988 made her "Salute to Youth" debut in the Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2. Nor is she any stranger to music director Joseph Silverstein, with whom she has performed in a variety of settings over the years and who will be conducting Tuesday's concert.
"He's so easy to work with," the Woods Cross High sophomore says, "and so professional. It's like he knows exactly what I'm going to do beforehand, so you're always set up perfectly."
This year she will be soloing in the third movement of Bruch's Concerto in G minor - the choice of her teacher, associate Utah Symphony concertmaster Gerald Elias - on what she acknowledges may well be "my biggest thing ever," the concert that may pave the way for future opportunities.
Someone else who credits a Utah Symphony musician with playing an important, if unknowing, role in her development is Orem High School clarinetist Michelle Watabe, who at 16 will be making her Utah Symphony debut with the opening movement of Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 2.
"I've been going to Utah Symphony concerts since fifth grade," Michelle recalls. "But the one I remember the most was last season when Christie Lundquist played the Weber First Concerto. Some friends and I went to that concert and I remember telling them, `Someday I'm going to solo with the Utah Symphony.' "
In fact this will be Michelle's first solo appearance with any orchestra - not a bad beginning. But, the David Randall pupil says, "I just want to be a normal person. I don't want to be a music freak. Right now I think I might like to be a high school band conductor, because of the great influence my band director has had on me. It's more than I could ever repay and I just want to be able to do the same for others."
That's not the feeling one gets talking with Shanghai-born Zhang Qing, who will be soloing with the first movement of the Chopin F minor Piano Concerto.
Currently studying with Susan Duehlmeier at the U., he is enough of a "music freak" that by the time he was 20 he had not only pulled down prizes in two of China's leading piano competitions but, as the youngest competitor that year, was a semifinalist in the 1987 William Kapell Competition at the University of Maryland. Later he took part in the 1988 Gina Bachauer Competition and just last August placed third in the Young Keyboard Artists Competition at Oberlin College, the highest-ranked entrant studying at an American university.
So what drew the 22-year-old pianist to this country? "It's so beautiful," Qing says, "I thought it would be magnificent for travel and for study. Also the policy of my nation was changing, so that graduates were no longer allowed to leave and had to work there."
Even so, he may return home to pursue a career as a concert pianist, he says, because he has discovered "America is not a good country in which to perform classical music - too many people like jazz and rock 'n' roll."
Ironically he will be sharing the first half of Tuesday's program with another pianist who not only likes jazz but performs it, Utah State Univesity's Bill Stanley.
Indeed the 21-year-old Logan native plays with both the USU Jazz Band and the Crestmark Orchestra, USU's version of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. On the other hand he teaches both private lessons and theory classes for the USU Youth Conservatory, was recently named collegiate-piano winner of the Utah Music Teachers Association auditions and this past week soloed with the USU Orchestra in the same piece he will be performing with the Utah Symphony, the Prokofiev Second Piano Concerto.
Bill says he spent one quarter at Reed College before transferring to USU to study with Gary Amano, who he says has helped him learn "to listen to myself" and to actively enjoy practicing. "Like most kids, originally I wanted to study piano, but when I got into it and saw how much work it was I had second thoughts. Eventually I decided the work was worth it."
Another performer who credits a teacher with heightening her sensibility to her instrument is violist Leticia Oaks, 18, who will be soloing the finale of Hindemith's "Der Schwanendreher." Currently in her first year at the University of Southern California, the Provo native and Timpview High School graduate studies with the celebrated violist Donald McInnes, who she says has not only helped her to be a more musical player "but also how to be a better performer, learning for instance how physical movements can help."
Just the same, the Hindemith is a piece she learned under Brigham Young University professor David Dalton, subsequently polishing it not only under McInnes but at the Quartet Program in Massachusetts and Santa Barbara's Music Academy of the West, where she performed it last summer with conductor Lawrence Leighton Smith.
"One of the things my parents did was to start every one of us on an instrument," Leticia recalls, adding that she switched from violin to viola at age 12 when her teacher, Hiroko Primrose. "thought I had the hands for it."
As he tells it, Benjamin Henderson's choice of instrument was less planned. "I wanted to play the violin," the Clearfield High teen recalls of his elementary-school days, "but they didn't have a double bass player so I told them I'd play that."
To his surprise, he found he "liked it right away. It was bigger than all the other instruments and I liked its depth of tone. You can get all the high ranges a cello can plus everything below."
Tuesday Ben will demonstrate that in the opening movement of the Dragonetti Double Bass Concerto. Originally his teacher, Utah Symphony bassist David Yavornitzsky, had proposed that he solo in the Koussevitzky Concerto, last performed on 1987's "Salute to Youth." But Ben says he is happy about the change. "The Dragonetti may be less musical, but it is more impressive technically, a better display piece for the soloist."
At 17, Ben already has behind him two summers at the famed National Music Camp at Interlochen and next year is scheduled to solo with the Rocky Mountain Youth Camarata on its European tour as well as perform a recital at the fourth annual Arizona Double Bass Symposium in Tucson.
As I said, both youth and experience.
Tickets to Tuesday's concert, the 31st of its kind, are priced at $6, $8, $10 and $12 with a special family pass available for $35. For information call the Symphony Hall box office at 533-NOTE.