Seven Lawrence University Musicians Share Top Honors in WPR-Sponsored Music Competition

APPLETON, WIS. — Lawrence University student musicians accounted for four of the five winners at the 13th annual Neale-Silva Young Artists competition held March 16 in Madison.

Pianists Amy Lauters, Will Martin and Michael Smith along with the string quartet of Danielle Simandl, violin, Katie Ekberg, violin, Sarah Bellmore, viola, and Max Hero, cello, shared top honors with clarinetist Brian Viliunas of Milwaukee in the state competition sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio. Simandl also advanced to the finals as a soloist.

This was the eighth time in the past 10 years that Lawrence students have won or shared top honors in the Neale-Silva event.

The competition is open to instrumentalists and vocal performers 17-26 years of age who are either from Wisconsin or attend a Wisconsin college. This year’s competition attracted 26 soloists and ensembles, with 14 of those (11 soloists and three ensembles) advancing to the finals.

Lauters, Martin, Smith and the members of the string quartet will reprise their winning performances Wednesday, April 30 at 7 p.m. in the Wisconsin Union Theater. The concert will be broadcast live statewide on the NPR News and Classical Music Network of WPR. In addition to the radio broadcast, all seven winners received $400 for their first-place performances.

For the April 30 concert, Lauters, a freshman from Manhattan, Kan., will perform Haydn’s “Piano Sonata in C major, no. 60,” Chopin’s “Nocturne” and Ravel’s “Jeux D’eau.” Smith, a sophomore from Davis, Calif., will play Schumann’s “Sonata no. 3 in f minor, op. 14” and “Fantasia” from J.S. Bach’s “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue.” Martin, a sophomore from Floosmoor, Ill., will perform Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Bellmore, a senior from Appleton, Ekberg, a junior from New Hope, Minn., Hero, a freshman from Wauwatosa and Simandl, a junior from Marquette, Mich., will perform Shostakovich’s “String Quartet no. 8.”

Lauters and Martin are students in the piano studio of Associate Professor of Music Anthony Padilla. Smith studies with Associate Professor of Music Michael Kim. Assistant Professor of Music Wen-Lei Gu serves as chamber coach of the string quartet.

The Neale-Silva Young Artists’ Competition was established to recognize young Wisconsin performers of classical music who demonstrate an exceptionally high level of artistry. It is supported by a grant from the estate of the late University of Wisconsin Madison professor Eduardo Neale-Silva, a classical music enthusiast who was born in Talca, Chile and came to the United States in 1925.