Locals among this year's Young Stars

Jun 22, 2012
Nora Willauer

Rockport — Bay Chamber Concerts and Music School will present the 2012 Young Stars of Maine Prizewinners Concert Friday, June 29 at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House, 6 Central St. The concert will feature the winners in eight prize-winning categories and is free and open to the public. Works by Handel, Dvorak, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Copland and more will be featured on the program.

For more than 50 years, Bay Chamber has awarded prizes to aspiring young Maine musicians. The organization is committed to honoring music students for their accomplishments, whether or not they plan on professional music careers. Past Young Stars winners have gone on to careers in many fields and some have achieved international recognition such as Metropolitan Opera soprano Kate Aldrich and violinist Matthew Szemela, who has performed at Carnegie Hall.

The winner of the A. H. Chatfield, Jr. Piano Prize is Amanda Raymond, a 17-year-old homeschooler from North Waterboro whose musical studies began with piano at age 7 and violin at age 11. She has pursued both instruments at a high level. During her high school years, Raymond won first place at the Maine State Pine Tree Piano Competition (Senior Division), the Contemporary Music Festival Piano Competition at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s High School Concerto Competition, the Ocy L. Down Piano Prize, the Lucia A. Wright Piano Competition and the A. H. Chatfield Jr. Piano Prize. She was awarded the Brian McGorrill Memorial Piano Scholarship, the prestigious Augur Scholarship for University of Southern Maine, and the Senior Scholarship from the Massabesic Friends of Music. Raymond has been a guest soloist with the Portland and Bangor symphony orchestras.

Emma Stanley, a native of Lamoine, is the winner of this year’s Ezra Rachlin Prize for Excellence. Stanley graduated from Peabody Conservatory in 2009 with a bachelor of music degree in classical trumpet performance and has been working all over the world playing the trumpet professionally. After graduating from Peabody, she shipped off to the Caribbean to play in the show band on a cruise ship for Royal Caribbean. Two contracts and a year later, she represented the United States playing in the opening ceremony for the Youth Olympics in Singapore. Most recently, Stanley has toured the United States and Canada as part of the pit orchestra for a national tour of "Monty Python's Spamalot." After playing 46 states in two seasons of "Spamalot," Stanley is happy to be back in the Bar Harbor area for the summer and to be the newest member of The Fogcutters, a Portland-based "new kind of big band."

Sophie Davis of Waldoboro, who has played the violin for 13 of her 17 years, was awarded the Jean and Harvey Picker Senior Prize. She studies with Gilda Joffe of Lincolnville and recently graduated from the Watershed School in Rockland. She previously was second violinist with the Calliope String Quartet, as well as concertmistress of the Odeon Chamber Orchestra. In 2006, her quartet won the Maine Student String Quartet Competition hosted by the LARK Society and in 2008 they won Bay Chamber Concerts' Kathie Johnson Chamber Music Prize. She also received honorable mention in the Bangor Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition. She has participated in Kneisel Hall's Maine Young Musician Program, Bay Chamber Concerts' Next Generation Program, the Maine All-State Orchestra and the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival. In 2010, she appeared with her sister on National Public Radio's "From the Top." She has spent the past two months studying tango violin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and this fall will begin studying in the dual degree program at Oberlin College and Conservatory.

This year, through the generosity of the Bixler family, the Elsie Bixler Junior Prize was split between three winners: Nathaniel Vilas, piano; Sam McKenna, piano; and Eleanora Willauer, cello. Vilas is 17-years-old and attends Brunswick High School. He has studied piano for 10 years under teachers including John Detweiler, Anastasia Antonacos, Joyce Clark, Barbara Franklin and, most recently, Naydene Bowder. Vilas received honorable mention at the MMTA Pine Tree Competition in April 2011 and honorable mention, or third place overall, at the Ocy Downs Piano Competition in March 2012. He also plays jazz piano and was selected to the Maine All-State Jazz Festival for 2011 and 2012. At the 2012 MMEA State Instrumental Jazz Festival, he received two Outstanding Musicianship awards. Along with piano, he studies bassoon under Ardith Keef and is principal bassoon with the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra. He was selected to the Maine All-State Orchestra for 2011 and 2012. Along with music, Nathaniel is a high honor student and a member of his school track and cross-country teams.

Willauer of Hope, 17, is a June graduate of the Watershed School in Rockland. She has been a strings player since age 4 when she started violin with Janet Ciano. Several years later she switched to cello and currently is a student of Noreen Silver in Bangor. Willauer has been cellist with the Calliope String Quartet and principal cellist of the Odeon Chamber Orchestra. She has attended many years of Bay Chamber’s Next Generation program, the program for Maine students at Kneisel Hall and other strings programs and master classes in the Northeast. Willauer is planning a gap year during which she will work, travel and study cello before attending college. Her favorite pastimes are outdoors, including sailing, rock climbing, running and expeditioning.

The third Bixler Prize Winner is Sam McKenna, age 17, of Appleton, a recent graduate of Camden Hills Regional High School who will be going on to attend Ithaca College this fall. He has studied piano with a variety of teachers including Martha Day, Kathie Johnson, Patricia Stowell and Mary Ann Driscoll. In 2011, McKenna was the winner of the Kathie Johnson Chamber Music Prize with his piano quartet, Kräftig. This summer, he will be a featured performer in “A Day in the Life,” a Beatle’s retrospective to be held at the Camden Opera House.

The Summer Music Woodwind Prize award goes to flutist Jennifer Willis of Newcastle. A 2012 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Willis studied with Peggy Vagts to earn her bachelor of music degree in flute performance. During her time at UNH she performed with the Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra, as principal flute in Ravel’s opera "L’Enfant et les Sortilèges" and for the theater department’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s "Company" on flute, clarinet and saxophone. She recently was accepted to perform at a master class with the well-known British flutist Trevor Wye at Boston University. She grew up in Newcastle, where she attended Lincoln Academy and studied flute with Linda Brunner. She is the piccolo player for the Maine State Ballet Orchestra, and has subbed with the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra in Topsham.

Jesse Wakeman, winner of the Eleanor Erdman and Diane Nixon Vocal Excellence Prize, is originally from Belfast and recently relocated to the Portland area. He grew up listening to his parents sing and perform in numerous capacities and sang in church choirs himself. In 2007, he was accepted to Berklee College of Music, where he studied classical technique, contemporary styles, improvisation and music theory. The fall of 2008 brought him back to his home state to attend the University of Southern Maine to continue his studies in music education. Here he gleaned four years of private instruction with Bruce Fithian and found himself in scene studies and in operatic performances under the direction of Ellen Chickering. Wakeman was a recipient of the Lillian Nordica Memorial Scholarship in 2011 and was accepted into PORTopera's Young Artists Program that same year.  In addition to performance, he is the director of a local church choir; maintains a small private studio of young students and amateur musicians; and spends much of his free time composing and arranging.

Following the performance, concertgoers, friends and family are invited to a reception for the musicians. This free concert, sponsored by Harmon, Jones and Sanford, is open to all ages.

Courier Publications' A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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