Sirena Huang, a 17-year-old violinist from South Windsor, Connecticut, is the first-prize winner of the 2011 Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition.
Her stellar performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, with Jahja Ling conducting the Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall on Friday, August 19, brought her the top prize of $10,000, one of the largest awards offered by an international youth competition. The prize includes concert engagements with orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai, and a full, four-year scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
Full Oberlin scholarships were also awarded to the second- and third-place winners; Alexandra Switala, 17, from Grapevine, Texas, won second prize and $6,000 for her performance of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63. Laura Park, 17, from Des Plaines, Illinois, won third prize and $3,000 for her performance of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47. Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music David H. Stull and Thomas Cooper, a 1978 graduate of Oberlin College and the sponsor of the competition, presented the awards.
The three young musicians were adjudicated by a world-renowned panel of violinists, including Gregory Fulkerson, from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and chairman of the jury for the 2011 Cooper International Violin Competition; David Bowlin, assistant professor of violin at Oberlin and founding member of the International Contemporary Ensemble; David Cerone, former president of the Cleveland Institute of Music; Fan Tao, conductor of the China National Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra; Tong Weidong, director of violin studies at the Central Conservatory Middle School in Beijing; and Milan Vitek, professor of violin at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
The Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition is co-presented by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Orchestra.
Praised by the Hartford Courant as “the first real virtuoso from the text-message age,” violinist Sirena Huang is the First Prize Gold Medalist of the 2009 International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians. Huang made her solo orchestral debut with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra at age 9. Since then, she has performed in 11 countries across three continents and has been featured as a soloist with more than 35 orchestras. Winner of the 2008 Violin Concerto Competition at the Aspen Music Festival, she received rave reviews for her 2010 performance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Since 2003, Huang has been selected three times as the youngest of 10 Exceptional Young Artists worldwide at the Starling-DeLay Symposium for Violin Study at Juilliard School. Additionally, Huang was invited by Elie Wiesel to perform during the ceremony in which the annual Humanitarian Award was presented to President Sarkozy of France. In June 2006, she performed for His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan and 30 other Nobel Prize Laureates at the World Peace Conference in Petra, Jordan.
Huang currently studies with Stephen Clapp and Sylvia Rosenberg at the Juilliard School Pre-College Division. Previous teachers include David Cerone and Robert Lipsett. Huang has been involved in various charities both locally and nationally, including World Vision, Japan Earthquake Relief and Fund for Access in Connecticut.
Alexandra Switala, 17, began studying the violin at age 4 in her hometown of Grapevine, Texas. She is a scholarship recipient at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy program, where she studies with Roland and Almita Vamos. Her previous instructors include Jan Mark Sloman of the Dallas Symphony and Catherine Cho of the Juilliard School.
As a participant in festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, Perlman Music Program, and National Arts Centre Young Artists’ Program in Ottawa, Canada, Switala has studied intensely with renowned musicians such as Itzhak Perlman, Nicholas Mann, Masao Kawasaki, and Pinchas Zukerman. She has also had the honor of playing in master classes for Pamela Frank, Ida Kavafian, Midori, and Joel Smirnoff.
Switala has been a soloist with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in Texas and the Ars Viva Symphony in Chicago, and she has appeared on the PBS program From the Top at Carnegie Hall, as well as on NPR’s Performance Today. As the junior winner of the 2011 Sphinx Competition, Switala will make solo appearances with orchestras nationwide, including the New World Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, and Ann Arbor Symphony.
In her free time, Switala enjoys reading, exploring modern art museums, taking instant photos, and listening to opera.
Seventeen-year-old Laura Park has studied the violin since age 5. A scholarship recipient at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Senior Academy, she studies with Almita Vamos, Roland Vamos, and Marko Dreher.
Park has captured top prizes in numerous competitions. In addition to winning the Walgreens National Concerto Competition three times, she has won first prize in the Union League Civic and Arts Scholarship Auditions, Arthur D. Montzka Young Artists Concerto Competition, Music Teachers National Association Illinois String Division (MTNA), Harper Young Artist Competition, DePaul Concerto Competition, Society of American Musicians Competition, Sejong Music Competition, and Confucius Competition. A recipient of the Farwell Trust Award from the Musicians Club of Women Scholarship Auditions, Park was awarded Fourth Prize in the Lipizer International Violin Competition, held in Gorizia, Italy, in addition to receiving the Special Prize for her “strong artistic temperament.”
Park made her debut performance on the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage during the National Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Music Institute. Solo engagements include the Orchestra Filarmonica “Paul Constantinescu” Di Ploiesti Romania under Maestro Ovidiu Balan, Oistrakh Orchestra, North Suburban Symphony Orchestra, Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Harper Symphony Orchestra, Fremd Symphony Orchestra, and Midwest Young Artist Orchestra. She has also performed on From the Top and in the Young Steinway Concert Series, and has been featured on Chicago’s WFMT Introductions, ABC7Chicago, and Vermont Public Television.
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