SALT LAKE CITY — Months of planning and preparation paid off Tuesday night as audiences were astounded by the performances of nine young musicians who joined the Utah Symphony for the 57th annual Salute to Youth concert.
The concert, which is sponsored by the Deseret News, gives young talent the opportunity to live out their dreams by performing with the Utah Symphony on a major stage.
“It is always thrilling to enjoy the accomplishment and refinement of these young musicians," said Paul Edwards, editor of the Deseret News. "The Deseret News is honored to work alongside the Utah Symphony to showcase Utah’s most proficient and disciplined rising talent."
The nine musicians that performed were selected out of a pool of 36 finalists and ranged in age from 10 to 18 years old. Associate conductor Rei Hotoda conducted the concert. Music performed included selections from Mozart, Jean Sibelius and Edward Elgar.
Eight pieces were performed at the concert divided by a brief intermission. Violinists Makenzie Hart and Ellen Hayashi, both 13 and best friends since they were 8, started the concert off with an electric duet of Pablo de Sarasate’s "Navarro" that elicited an immediate standing ovation upon completion, a trend that would continue after every performance of the night.
The violin duet was followed by a much more somber and mellow cello solo from Amanda Hofheins, 17, who performed Elgar’s Concerto in E minor. This was a concerto that Hofheins had dreamed of playing since she was young. She also had a dream to play along with the Utah Symphony. Both dreams came true in this one performance.
"Ever since I was young I've come to these concerts, and I just really looked up to all the musicians and I just love the Utah Symphony," Hofheins said in an interview with the Deseret News following the performance.
After the two string performances, Olivia Torgersen, 17, performed Eric Ewazen's Concerto for Marimba and String Orchestra on the marimba. Torgersen had also dreamed of performing at the Salute to Youth concert since she witnessed her cousin perform in 2009. Although she initially imagined playing the piano during the concert, she eventually switched to the marimba due to its unique nature.
"I've been playing piano since I was 5 years old and I competed all over the place, but I wasn't winning anything just because the piano is really, really, really competitive," Torgersen said in an interview. "With the marimba, it's difficult in a different way, but it's unique, so people like to hear it and like to play it in concerts because it's unique."
The first half of the concert was concluded with 16-year-old pianist Matthew Nielson's solo to Camille Saint-Saëns' Concerto No. 5, a piece that Nielson initially grew to dislike, but eventually gained a newfound love for.
The concert’s youngest performer, 10-year-old Megan Tandar, took the stage following the break and immediately charmed everyone with her professional, mature performance of Mozart's Concerto No. 19 in F major on the piano as if she had been practicing for 30 years.
Tandar was followed by Bree Fotheringham, 18, on the violin, who performed Jean Sibelius’ Concerto in D minor. This provided a contrast to the Tandar's previous piece as it not only was the longest performance of the evening, but was also dramatic and intense with a strong presence from the timpani and low brass section.
After Fotheringham, the audience was graced with an angelic harp performance of Reinhold Gilière’s Harp Concerto op. 74, courtesy of Monet Wilson, 14, who played with a beautiful elegance that did justice to the harp's typical heavenly nature. Wilson has been playing the harp since she was 3.
The concert concluded in a similar fashion in which it began with an energetic piano performance by Kana Yoshigi, 17, who performed Dimitri Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 in C minor. Adding to the energy of Yoshigi's piano skills were several prominent trumpet solos garnished with the tapping bows of the symphony's violin section.
Following the concert, the audience gave a long, thunderous standing ovation in tribute to the incredible talent that they had just witnessed from all nine performers.