Young musicians in the spotlight

Friday, October 17, 2003

Dr. Sara Edgerton hopes Academic Auditorium is filled with children Tuesday. Some of the children, ranging in age from 3 to 18, will be on stage performing in a concert titled "Family Favorites."

"We want to show what children are capable of," the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra conductor says.

Cape Central senior Bonan Wang will play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. Wang won the competition for juniors in the Missouri Music Teacher's Association State Honors Piano Solo Auditions last year.

The concert also offers folk songs played by the Suzuki All-Stars, 40 Southeast Music Academy violinists who will be accompanied by the symphony orchestra, and the premiere of Southeast faculty member Dr. Robert Fruehwald's "What's an Orchestra?" In addition, violinist Dr. Brandon Christensen will solo in "Danse Macabre," the symphony's bow to Halloween.

Wang has been playing the piano since she was a 4-year-old in China. This is her first performance with a symphony orchestra. "It feels a lot different," she said before a recent rehearsal. "It's great to see how it comes together."

She compares the musical give-and-take between herself and the orchestra to "questions and answers."

Wang is not the first high school student to solo with the university orchestra. Two years ago, Notre Dame Regional High School alumnus Liesl Schoenberger performed Tchaikovsky's Concerto in D Major with the symphony. Her success, in part, made it possible for other young performers to follow, Edgerton said.

Dr. James Sifferman, a professor of music at Southeast, is Wang's teacher. A conversation with Edgerton about his talented high school student led to Wang's engagement with the orchestra in this concert programmed for children.

"It will be a great boost for the arts and music to see someone of their own age doing it in grand fashion," Sifferman said.

The Beethoven work is known for its clarity and drama and should showcase Wang's technical facility.

Not every musician, even soloists, gets to play with a symphony orchestra. Wang says her friends think "it's cool. I'm asking them to come and hear me play for moral support."

She does get nervous before performing but knows how to handle it. "I clear my mind and don't think about what's going to happen if I mess up," she said.

Wang, the daughter of Yifeng Ren and Dr. Shaojun Wang of Cape Girardeau, plans to minor in music after high school. Her major will combine psychology and international studies. Her grades have enabled her to put Stanford, MIT, Yale and Washington University on her short list of possible colleges.

Wang always comes to rehearsals well prepared and is easy to work with, Edgerton says, and is very musical. "Her playing is very elegant and very tasteful. She plays in a beautiful way. She really makes the piano sing."

The original work by Fruehwald employs familiar melodies to introduce the instruments of the orchestra to the audience. It's a favorite of the orchestra members themselves, Edgerton said. "The first time we read it through all the students said, 'I love this piece.'"

"What's an orchestra?" is narrated by Carly Trautwein, a Cape Central freshman who studies voice and piano at the Southeast Music Academy.

Edgerton says the intent of the concert is "to introduce the whole idea of symphonic music to the family. ... The program has some real serious music on it, but we wanted to reach out especially to children."

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