On Feb. 15, the five students who won the 47th annual Concerto-Aria Competition had a chance to showcase their talent and musical prowess while being accompanied by the Hope College Orchestra, directed by Dr. Christopher Fashun. Winners include clarinetist Kailtlyn Rustemeyer, cellist Miquel Fuentes, pianist Deborah Blackmon, and sopranos Emma Clark and Gabrielle Barber. The group performed in the Concert Hall of the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts. The long journey for several students that culminated in Friday’s Concerto-Aria Concert began this same time last year.
The student musicians competing have had their specific concertos picked since the 2018 spring semester and have been practicing ever since. Auditions for the concert were held last November, and the winners were elected by an outside panel of music specialists, invited from various colleges and universities in the surrounding area. These experts take into account the program, Hope’s repertoire and time allotted to this final concert to decide how many students will be able to perform and which students are declared winners. The competition winners are selected with enough time for the Hope College Orchestra to begin preparing by the start of the spring semester.
This concert not only showcases the five talented competition winners but also the orchestra itself, presenting them with the challenge of mastering so much music in a few short weeks. The orchestra began the concert with their normal melodic flair, a show-worthy recital all by themselves. Dr. Fashun then gave his introduction and explained why this concert was such a unique experience. The selection of winners by an outside panel guarantees a diverse group of students presenting a variety of musical choices. This concert also allows professors within the music department to come together and interact with each other. This kind of collaboration sets this music department recital apart from others, as it was a testament to the hard work of every student musician present, to the professors working hard to bring recognition to said students, and music stewardship in general.
Miquel Fuentes was first to perform with “Concerto in A minor, Op. 129: Movement 3” by Robert Shumann, an intense movement that kept the audience at the edge of their seats. Next was Emma Clark singing “Deh Vieni, non Tardar” from “Le nozze di Figaro” by W.A. Mozart, showing off Clark’s voice as well as her ability to capture the complex emotions of this piece. Next, performing a deeply moving and intricate number on the piano, Deborah Blackmon played “Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op.18: Movement 1” by S. Rachmaninoff.
Intermission was then followed by the uncanny “Concerto for Clarinet” by Aaron Copland, performed by Kaitlyn Rustemeyer. The final performance was by Gabrielle Barber, ending the impressive recital with an equally impressive rendition of “La Canzone di Doretta” from “La Rondine” by G. Puccini. The orchestra then concluded with “Libra Tango” by Astor Piazzolla. The concert marked the end of about a year’s worth of hard work for these five outstanding performers. Hope’s student musicians will hopefully be inspired by this concert to begin preparation for the 48th Concerto-Aria Concert that will be held next year.