Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra Announces Winners of 2019-20 Youth Concerto Competition


The 2019-2020 “Madeline Schatz-Harris Youth Concerto Competition” took place on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2019, at a private residence in Kailua-Kona. The competition featured young performers from all over the state of Hawai‘i. It focused on the string family: violin, viola, cello, and bass. The three winners of this year’s competition are violinist Sevastyn Swan and cellists Alexander Canicosa- Miles and Miru Hu. Each winner will receive scholarship awards and the opportunity to perform with the Kamuela Philharmonic during its winter concert, “Innocent Beginnings,” at Kahilu Theatre in Kamuela on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, at 2 p.m. Ticket info below.

In just a few short years, the “Madeline Schatz-Harris Youth Concerto Competition,” named after the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra’s founder and Conductor Emeritus, is an essential part of the Kamuela Philharmonic’s mission and remains a focal point for one of the orchestra’s season concerts each year. The state’s first youth concerto competition, which draws competitors from all other Hawaiian Islands, has become a popular and beloved part of the performing arts community in the state of Hawai‘i.

Conductor Brian Dollinger with YCC winners

During the competition, each contestant is asked to perform one movement of a concerto from memory, with piano accompaniment, before a panel of judges. The contestants in this year’s event were all so talented, it was challenging for the judges to pick the winners in the three age categories, 12 and under, 13-15 and 16-18.

Sevastyn Swan (11), a student of Sheryl Shohet of Honolulu for the last eight years, has competed in this event twice before. He was “shocked and glad” when his name was announced as a winner this time but noted that he was willing to put in the effort and keep going after his losses, and “after lots of practice, it paid off.” He will be performing “Spring” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” He chose this concerto because he liked the challenge of working up the really fast middle section of the movement.

Alexander Canicosa-Miles (15)—a winner of the competition four years ago—studies with Jonathan Koh of Honolulu. Since his last performance with the orchestra, Canicosa-Miles has grown, not only in stature but also ability. He is looking forward to again performing with the “incredibly dedicated and passionate musicians” in the Kamuela Philharmonic. Alexander said, “the highlight of this competition is being able to collaborate and share the stage with musicians who find it equally important as he does to share the gift of music.”

He chose the 1st and 2nd movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto to perform because of the contrasting emotional journey it portrays. To him, “the concerto starts out very powerful, then surrenders to a sense of sorrow, torment and at times cries out against life.” His playing reflects that emotional journey very sensitively.

YCC Competitors

Mira Hu (16) studies with Nancy Masaki of Honolulu. She has loved the Kabalevsky Concerto she is performing since she first heard the piece and considers it a “hidden gem since it isn’t played that often.”

According to Hu, the piece is technically challenging and filled with various emotions. The movement begins as a march, then “the cello comes in with a hypnotic feeling.” It showcases a short cadenza, which consists of octave runs that she found very difficult to get in tune at first, but helped her improve her technique as she worked on it. Mira finds the whole piece “filled with so much energy,” and playing it with the piano gets her excited every time, so she is “thrilled to have the opportunity to play it with the Kamuela Philharmonic.”

In addition to the performances from the concerto competition winners, the “Innocent Beginnings” concert in January also features the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra in performances of Beethoven’s Overture to “Fidelio” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1.

If You Go… Have A Good Show!

When: Sunday, January 26, 2020 at 2:00 p.m.
Where: Kahilu Theatre, Waimea
Cost: $54 / $44 / $32 / $20
Info: Tickets are and can be purchased at kahilutheatre.org, (808) 885-6868 or at the Kahilu Theatre Box Office located at 67-1186 Lindsey Road, Kamuela (Waimea).

Photos: Danny Waddell


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