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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
The Salute to Youth performers stand on stage with the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall.
I just love doing these concerts because we consider education to be a high priority. —Utah Symphony music director Thierry Fischer

SALT LAKE CITY — Some of Abravanel Hall's youngest audience members enjoyed their first symphonic concert as young soloists took to the stage at the Utah Symphony's annual Salute to Youth performance Tuesday evening.

While the student performers ranged in age from 13 to 20, concertgoers as young as 5 could be seen intently engaged in the evening's seven classical-music selections.

"Dad, that was amazing," one child was heard to exclaim. "It was so very, very long, but it was amazing!"

"I just love doing these concerts because we consider education to be a high priority," said Utah Symphony music director Thierry Fischer, who conducted the full orchestra and Salute to Youth soloists. "I just love working with the young talent and helping them perform at their highest level."

Fischer added that he marvels at how the young soloists, who are shy and "full of wide-eyed wonder" at rehearsals, then perform at near-professional level.

"I find that if I treat youngsters as adults — and sometimes adults as youngsters — that we're able to work well together," he said with a laugh.

As symphony education manager Beverly Hawkins explained as she introduced each of the evening's performers, some soloists began studying music because "my Mom made me." But 16-year-old Kate Hales first picked up a violin at age 3 because she saw her older siblings enjoy musical performance.

However, at a frustrating moment at that tender age, she threw her instrument — into a nearby soft couch — and her mother proclaimed that she was "privileges were revoked" from using the delicate instrument until she turned 5. But at age 41/2, she showed more capability to begin her studies. And then decided that she knew that she should have been performing on the viola.

Margaret Ivory, 14, initially studied both dance and violin, but it was during a performance with Ballet West at "The Nutcracker" that she focused intently on the orchestra's performance and not the ballet that she decided to solely pursue music-performance studies.

"And now it's my whole life," she told Hawkins.

Sponsored since its inception 53 years ago by the Deseret News, the Salute to Youth series welcomes student musicians from across the state to audition for a solo performance with the orchestra. This year an audition pool of 106 aspiring musicians competed for the coveted opportunity. The prestigious honor follows a Utah Symphony tradition begun by legendary music director Maurice Abravanel.

Young soloists

The performers and the selections they performed were:

Kana Yoshigi, 13, piano, Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 3, First Movement

Michelle Dean, 18, voice, Mozart, Ach, ich fühl's from "The Magic Flute"

Rebecca Pedersen, 20, voice, Puccini, Un bel di vedremo from "Madama Butterfly"

Kate Hales, 16, viola, Walton, Viola Concerto, Second Movement

Margaret Ivory, 14, violin, Beethoven, Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61, Third Movement

David Horton, 17, piano, Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K.491, First Movement

Seong-EunCho, 17, piano, Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 2, First Movement