SALT LAKE CITY — Olivia Owens loves playing the violin.
In fact, she loves it so much that on occasion, her mother has taken to hiding the instrument to ensure that homework gets finished.
With the annual Salute to Youth concert on the horizon, the 11-year-old violinist has been playing even more than usual.
“She works so hard,” said Olivia’s mother, Cathy Owens. “As a family, we just kind of sit back in awe. Preparing for this concert really has been her own hard work and desire to do this, so we’re just pretty proud of her.”
Olivia is the youngest of 10 musicians who will be performing at the Salute to Youth concert at Abravanel Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 26. The other soloists are violinists Erika Hubbard, 17; McCall Andersen, 16; Rachel Call, 15; cellist Sarah Baker, 12; pianists Sabrina Allen, 12; David Ban, 15; Avery Gunnell, 16; Sanne Christensen, 16; and flutist Aniah Young, 18.
The event, now in its 58th year, is a yearly tradition that Deseret News has sponsored since its inception.
"We're so happy to support the efforts of these fine young artists," said Doug Wilks, editor of the Deseret News. "There are many demands on young people today and, quite frankly, distractions that can pull youths away from positive pursuits. To be able to champion their efforts and acknowledge their years of practice and sacrifice is worthy of celebration."
Olivia and two other soloists shared their thoughts about the upcoming concert with the Deseret News.
Olivia hoped that she would one day be able to perform alongside the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall, but she didn’t dream that the opportunity would arise so soon. The violinist will be performing a movement from Edouard Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole,” a piece she has been diligently practicing since January.
“It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever learned because it’s a Spanish dance,” she said. “It’s not boring. It’s really exciting, and it makes me want to practice. I’ve fallen in love with it ever since I heard it the first time.”
Olivia also expressed gratitude to her teacher, Deborah Moench, who is retiring.
“She’s just the most amazing teacher,” she said. “She’s been so kind and so generous. She was going to retire in August, but she gave me (extra) lessons because she wanted me to be prepared for this concert. I’ve never performed in front of so many people before, and never performed with the Utah Symphony or any symphony at all, but I think I’m pretty prepared. I feel good about it, (and) I think it’s going to be really fun up there on the stage.”
For Aniah Young, preparing for the Salute to Youth concert hasn’t been the only thing on her mind. The flutist has also been adjusting to a new chapter in life — college.
The 18-year-old is in her first semester at Weber State University, where she studies music education. And even though classes and coursework fill up her days, Young still manages to set aside two or three hours of daily practice. She will be performing “Serenade” by Howard Hanson. With its smooth, intricate melodies, the piece makes practicing worthwhile and enjoyable for Young.
“I want to make sure that I sound good for this performance,” she said. “I’ve actually been playing this piece for over a year, so I’ve been playing it for a while, and I think it’s pretty polished. I hope everything goes well. I love playing in Abravanel Hall; it’s probably the best place in the state to play."
Sabrina, 12, still can’t believe she’ll be taking the Abravanel Hall stage next week. She was surprised when she found out during the summer that she had been selected to perform at Salute to Youth.
“I was really shocked,” she said. “I felt like they were going to call back and say, ‘Sorry, you made a mistake,’ or something like that. I just was not expecting this.”
Sabrina has played the piano for seven years — more than half of her life — and she’s already had many memorable experiences performing in Utah, including a performance last year at the Assembly Hall. Every time she performs, her passion for music grows stronger.
“It kind of just (shows) me that it’s something that I really enjoy to do — even if it’s really hard sometimes,” she said.
Tuesday night will mark all three musicians' first time performing with the Utah Symphony and as part of Salute to Youth. Above all, they hope that members of their audience will walk away inspired.
“I want (the audience) to feel excited and emotional like I do when I play,” Olivia said. “I want to make other people happy; that’s what my talent is for. I’m really glad that I can be a part of sharing this gift of music.”
If you go...
What: 58th annual Salute to Youth concert
When: Tuesday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.
Where: Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple
How much: $12