|April 27, 2013|
How the Harmony of Musical Talent Began
“Our hills are alive with the sound of music,” Julie Andrews sang as Maria Von Trapp in the 1965 musical film. Yes, we have hills and Lake Wales has talent.
Presented by the Lake Wales Arts Council, this weekend’s 11th Annual Marilyn Newell Youth Music Festival will showcase 45 of the county’s most talented young musicians and award $4,500 to the winners at Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center.
“It was a total surprise,” said Marilyn Newell, LWAC co-founder and past president, when the competition she helped launch in 2003 was named in her honor.
“I was charter member of the Council and when I retired from the board they wanted to do something nice for me. For once in my life I was speechless.”
From 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, students between 11 and 18 years old will compete in any of three categories – piano, vocal and instrumental in either the junior or senior division.
“It’s more than I expected it to be mainly because of the intensity with which they prepare,” Marilyn said, noting that students weren’t originally required to memorize their music, but was added later to challenge competitors.
“You have to think of the intellectual capacity of these kids when they memorize the music and perform it as well,” Newell added. “Music is a lifelong pleasure. Whether or not they have a career in music, this is something that enriches their lives and enriches our lives to hear to them perform.”
“The Festival not only enables young musicians to hone their skills while gaining experience and skill in competition, but it provides an opportunity for the community to witness the achievements of local youth during a free concert of quality music,” said Brenda Raabe, Festival co-chair with her husband Rob.
“You’re going to hear the cream of the crop. They’re diligent and bright,” they said. “This is a positive thing to see that not all kids are getting into trouble. They are practicing, and working hard.”
“Their quality, poise and talent is amazing,” Brenda added. “This is a chance to show their best and create a piece of beauty on the spot. It gives you hope for the future.”
Since all applicants are accepted without auditions or entry fees, the Festival may expand to a day and a half next year. “We credit our increase from 31 contestants last year to 45 this year to Beth Cummings, senior coordinator for music in Polk County Schools, who helped get the word out to all the schools,” said Rob, who was band director at McLaughlin Middle School and Fine Arts Academy for 18 years. “We have students who have entered three to four times in the past and have gained a lot of experience.”
Participants must prepare and memorize two contrasting selections from the standard classical music. Woodwind, brass and percussion performers will select their music from the current Florida Bandmasters Music List. Junior division music includes grades 2 through 4 or higher and senior division includes grades 5 through 7. Total music time will be limited to eight minutes for juniors and 10 minutes for seniors and time limits will be strictly observed. Awards will be presented for first, second and third places with an award of $1,000 for the most outstanding performance.
Awards will be presented for first, second and third places with an award of $1,000 for the most outstanding performance. Winners will perform one of their competition pieces during a free public concert and awards ceremony at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 28.
“It’s like the Academy Awards,” Marilyn stated. “No one knows who the winners are because we ask them to come prepared to perform.” The public is invited to listen to performances during Saturday’s competition and attend Sunday’s free concert. Tabitha Wine, the 2012 overall festival winner, will open the Sunday concert.
The judges will be vocalist John Thomasson, Ph.D., choral director and professor of voice and German diction at Florida Southern College; pianist Rita Fandrich, who retired from FSC as professor emeritus after teaching 43 years; and Frank Howes, retired director of Fine Arts for Polk County Schools. Awards will be based on the discretion of the judges.
“Our purpose is to show people how important the arts are,” remarked Marilyn. “I’m all for young people, especially for girls who are able to excel in math and science, but STEM is how to earn a living and the humanities are how to live a life. There’s more to life than simply going to work, sitting in front of the tube or the computer.”
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