I am writing this today so that the recent great performances of Nita Qiu and Orion Kim do not go unnoticed by those that could not be there. Nor do I want those of us who were privileged to be there to ever forget. I want to go on record for our studio what I witnessed the weekend of March 7th and 8th as the Caronavirus was enveloping the nation.
On Saturday night, March 7th, Nita performed in the finals of the Rising Stars Concerto Competition of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra. She was the winner of the $1,000. Jay and Dawn Jaehnke Award. It was indeed a magical night. The finals were comprised of four young women ranging in age from fifteen to eighteen years of age. There were two pianists and two violinists. They represented three states of the upper mid-west: Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The level of playing was sky-high. The orchestra presented the finalists in a formal, subscription concert at Viterbo University's Concert Hall and the venue was packed by an excited and very enthusiastic audience. Nita played the first movement of one of Chopin's greatest masterpieces, the Concerto No. 2 in F minor. Her performance exhibited her usual characteristics: an exquisite tone exuding multiple layers of color, light, darkness, and shade; a brilliant virtuosity of the first rank; an uncanny freedom of timing in the arch of her phrasing; a conception that held the work in her hands as an organic whole; and a sense of ensemble with the conductor and orchestra that was unsurpassed. It is the kind of playing that brings tears to the eyes. Many people have often told me this over the years. She is a conduit of the beautiful. Even the conductor stated to the audience afterwards that Nita's performance was greater than the previous season's professional artist in the same work! I am not surprised. As I listened to my Nita, I was overcome with emotion. The almost thirteen years that I have nurtured this great, gifted, and talented young woman flashed before my eyes, ears, and consciousness. I heard in every note every single thing I had ever taught Nita about the Art of Piano Playing as well as all that I had learned from teaching her. I have often told Nita that she was the kind of student that brought out the very best in me - that she made me a better teacher - that she allowed me to do some of the greatest teaching of my life. And for that and so many other things, I will be forever indebted to her.
The onslaught of the Caronavirus has hit Nita's artistic opportunities very hard. She was poised to have the greatest senior year on record for our studio. It forced the cancellation (but possible rescheduling) of her 4 performances with the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall. Her performances in Los Angeles for the National Young Arts Academy were cancelled, as well as her solo program for the Salon se leve Concert Series, and her final opportunity to perform in the Schubert Club Auditions. Her recording of the entire Chopin Concerto for the Chopin Foundation of America's 4th Year Scholarship has been cancelled and put on hold. But Nita has faced all of this with an admirable stoicism. We will pick up the pieces and we go on.
On Sunday afternoon, March 8th, Orion performed in the finals of the Minnesota Orchestra's Young Peoples' Concerto Competition from the stage of Orchestra Hall. He was the winner of the $600. Schmitt Prize. He played the first movement of Saint-Saens Concerto No. 2. Orion's performance was one of stunning conviction - especially for one who just turned 14 years of age. The power, beauty, meaning, and architectural wholeness of his performance completely filled the hall. Orion's sensitivity to melodic, harmonic, and contrapuntal structures is astonishing. One great professional musician expressed to me that Orion filled the gigantic space of Orchestra Hall not just with sound, but with the completeness of the work. Another great professional musician expressed that he "owned the hall". Orion exudes what Jo Anne's father used to call the X+ factor. He had everyone when he walked out. Very few people possess this kind of charismatic power. Our beloved teacher, the great Martin Marks, had it to the greatest extent imaginable. I know it when I feel it. This charismatic power is the firmament from which a great star could be born.
Yours in Music -
Joe & Jo Anne