On Sunday, July 24th, six finalists were showcased at the 11th annual Rosen-Schaffel Concerto Competition for Young and Emerging Artists. The competition included performances from Sydney Dayyani, Rebekah Willard, Elisabeth Thomashoff, Luca Kevorkian, Ashley May Depaola, and Winfred Felton.

The competition has gained a reputation for launching the careers of some of the Southeast’s most talented musicians; that is not to say that these musicians are not already well accomplished. This year the competition expanded its eligibility to ten states across the Southeast, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida.

Flutist Sydney Dayyani kicked off the competition with a performance of the Ouverture, Les Plaisirs, Réjouissance, and Polonaise from Ouverture-Suite in A minor, TWV 55:a2, composed by Georg Philipp Telemann. Originally composed for the recorder, I preferred the flute rendition of this piece – Dayyani’s performance, with accompaniment from Allison Bishop, offered a great deal of compelling dynamics. The jumpy Ouverture elegantly displayed Dayyani’s talent, and she captivated the audience.

Third place award winner Rebekah Willard, accompanied by Tatiana Wright, performed the Moderato Nobile movement from Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35 composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. This Romantic concerto was a personal favorite – the tension of emotion in the concert hall was so palpable that I had to hold back tears throughout the performance, and perhaps Willard did too, displaying her own emotion with each pull of the bow.

Next up was “Audience Choice” winner Elisabeth Thomashoff, who performed all three movements of Piano Concerto No. 2 in F, Op. 102 by Dmitri Shostakovich. Thomashoff displayed tremendous focus during the Allegro movement when a cellphone alarm unfortunately went off for nearly two minutes. Thomashoff beautifully led the audience through multiple crescendos and decrescendos that felt like an entertaining chase.

After intermission, Ashley May Depaola performed the first movement, Allegro con brio, from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 with impressive conviction. This powerful concerto displayed Depaola’s astounding control, frequently shifting from fortissimo to pianissimo with ease. Depaola’s and accompanist Nancy Johnston’s performance felt like a dance; the audience followed the music’s lead the whole time.

Luca Kevorkian won second place for his performance of the first and second movements of Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47, accompanied by Johnston as well. The Allegro moderato movement begins with a lonesome theme, as though you are lost at sea. The long trill transitioning into a coda of descending octaves and rapid shifts in harmonics seemed to offer hope. During the Adagio di molto movement, the violin cries out in struggle while the piano reiterates the theme first introduced in Allegro moderato. Kevorkian continuously built the tension in the concert hall, and it felt as though we had been on a long journey – but Kervorkian guided the audience back to shore.

Last to play and first place award winner was Winfred Felton (accompanied by Arianna Bohning) with his astounding bassoon performance of Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Grand Concerto for Bassoon in F. The use of accelerando and ritardando appeared effortless to Felton, while at the same time appearing incredibly difficult to the viewer; I felt out of breath just watching the performance. Felton also received an invitation to come back next year and perform during the 2023 Appalachian Summer Festival.

The Rosen-Shaffel Competition for Young and Emerging Artists is hosted in partnership with the Hayes School of Music and is a part of the Appalachian Summer Festival. The final round of competition was an unbelievable display of musical talent from every contestant. I would not be surprised to see each one of them doing big things in the future. If you happened to miss the event, you can watch the live stream from the event here. Musician bios can also be found here.