For the first time ever, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra conducted its annual “Madeline Schatz-Harris Youth Concerto Competition” in a virtual setting.
Young woodwind, brass, percussion, and piano players from all over the state of Hawai‘i submitted video recordings of themselves, as their entry, performing (by memory) one movement of a selected piece from the standard orchestral repertoire. Led by Brian Dollinger, the Kamuela Philharmonic’s artistic director and conductor, a panel of judges reviewed the submissions and selected the winners.
The two winners of this year’s competition are pianists Crystal Ferreira and Aimee Okagawa (left) from O‘ahu. Each will receive a scholarship award and the opportunity to perform with the Kamuela Philharmonic at an upcoming concert.
“Yet again, the young musicians of Hawai‘i have impressed me with their poise and performance,” stated Dollinger. “When I talk about this competition with my other orchestras on the mainland, everyone is so impressed by the talent of our two younger age categories. My other orchestra’s competitions focus mainly on high school-aged students, so having young music students like Aimee and Crystal to work with is really amazing.”
Joel Gimpel, board president of the Kamuela Philharmonic, said, “The judges were extremely impressed with the level of preparedness and performance by all of the students. Because 2020 was so very restrictive, their accomplishments stand out even more; they did an outstanding job.”
“It has been very important to the Orchestra to continue this annual competition for the music students of Hawai‘i during this pandemic. So many other events, festivals, clinics, competitions have been canceled over the past year that we wanted to ensure this opportunity persevered for the kids,” Dollinger added. “We’re hoping that enough restrictions are changed so that we can bring these young musicians to Hawai‘i Island to perform with us, but if circumstances hinder us, I do know that I will find an alternative concert opportunity for them to perform with the Philharmonic on stage.”
Crystal Ferreira (10), a student of Dr. Thomas Yee of Honolulu, lives in Manoa on O‘ahu and has been playing piano since the age of 4. She won her age bracket with her performance of the first movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto. Crystal chose the Mendelssohn piece because she loves “the excitement and diversity” of the work and because so many different techniques are required to perform it.
“I am very fortunate to have Dr. Thomas Yee as my teacher. He is an amazing teacher and motivates me to play and try my very best,” said Crystal. “I am so happy and excited for the future and the many new challenges and experiences I will encounter.”
Aimee Okagawa (15) lives in Honolulu and is a 9th grader at Iolani School. She began playing the piano at the age of 4 and is now studying under Dr. Wendy Yamashita of Honolulu. Aimee won her age bracket with her performance of the first movement of Edvard Grieg’s First Piano Concerto.
Aimee “loves music and can’t imagine a life without it.” She finds it gratifying to share the joy of music as a pianist, and a bassoonist in her school symphonic band.
For more information about the “Madeline Schatz-Harris Youth Concerto Competition,” visit the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra website at kamuelaphil.org.
About the “Madeline Schatz-Harris Youth Concerto Competition”
The Orchestra’s founding Artistic Director, Dr. Madeline Schatz-Harris, recognized and admired the talent exhibited by many young music students in Hawai‘i and came up with the idea of holding an annual concerto competition as a showcase for that talent. It was the first youth concerto competition in the state of Hawai‘i. Later, to honor the founder and Conductor Emeritus, the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra named its annual concerto competition the “Madeline Schatz-Harris Youth Concerto Competition.” The competition has become a beloved part of the performing arts community in Hawai‘i. Taking place on Hawai‘i Island, but often drawing students from the neighbor islands, the competition is an essential part of the Kamuela Philharmonic’s mission and the focal point for one of its season concerts.
About the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra
The Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra (KPO) is dedicated to bringing live, high-quality orchestral music to audiences on Hawai‘i Island. KPO celebrates and promotes the timeless beauty of classical music, as well as the rich cultural and musical traditions of the Hawaiian people. The KPO is a charitable organization described in Sec. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Those who wish to contribute to this endeavor, either financially or in other ways, are encouraged to contact the KPO either through its website or at P.O. Box 2597, Kamuela, HI 96743.