On Jan. 22, the D’Angelo Department of Music at Mercyhurst University held the Mercyhurst Chamber Orchestra’s first Concerto/Aria Competition that included competitors from Mercyhurst University as well as two local high schools.
Jonathan Moser, the violin professor at Mercyhurst University, spearheaded the event by organizing and gathering a select group of professional musicians to judge the competition.
The judges in attendance were Rachel Stegeman, concertmaster of the Wheeling and Youngstown symphonies and adjunct violin professor at Duquesne University; Roi Mezare, principal clarinet of the Wheeling Symphony; and Anne Bentz, associate professor of voice at Westminster College.
When asked to respond to why the concerto concert is a vital part of the life of Mercyhurst, Moser said, “It inspires students to reach further and to seek even greater levels of excellence.
“It offers the opportunity to showcase the wonderful talent of our student body.
“It offers exposure of our program to a greater and more diverse audience, including the judges.
“The requirements for high school contestants include already being involved in the music programs here at Mercyhurst.
“Both the contestants have been active participants in many concerts involving MU students.
“So, it offers incentive and reward to those students who choose to join our activities.”
As stated in the title of the competition, both musicians and vocalists performed in a concert-style setting for a panel of judges who ultimately chose three winners.
The three winning students, besides being honored with their success, were also given the opportunity to perform with the full orchestra during a May concert.
Senior Kevin Timko, a music therapy major at Mercyhurst, auditioned with Ibert’s “Concertino da Camera” on the saxophone.
After his performance, Timko said “having to memorize a piece forced me to move past something that I’m not musically comfortable with because I don’t usually have to know a single piece by heart.
It was a very unique educational experience.”
Shelby Maberry, also a senior, was one of the winners of the competition, as well as Isaiah Howard, a flautist from Mercyhurst and Deven Shah, a local high school student who has studied piano under Linda Kobler.
A classically trained vocalist, Maberry performed Benjamin Britten’s “The Embroidery Aria” from the opera Peter Grimes as well as Richard Wagner’s “Dich Teure Halle!” from “Tannhauser.”
After procuring her win, Maberry was “surprised and excited. I look forward to collaborating with the Mercyhurst Chamber Orchestra in May.”
The date of the concert will be May 7, at 4 p.m. in Walker Recital Hall.