Each year, students at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music prepare for the All-Star Competition. The prize is a chance to perform solo with the UCLA Philharmonia, the school’s flagship orchestra and one of Southern California’s top training orchestras. This year’s winners will perform at Royce Hall on Sunday, June 5 at 4 p.m.
“I knew that as soon as I got to UCLA,” said Alexander Lee, senior saxophonist and one of this year’s contest winners. “I participated in my second year and won an honorable mention. Last year there was no concert, so I was excited for this year.
Eight students were chosen as winners of the 2021-2022 All Star competition representing a diverse selection of instruments and styles. Their interpretive selections range from the legendary virtuoso first movement of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47 to the sonorous piece Barber for voice and orchestra, Knoxville: Summer 1915 with a Spanish influence Baroque concerto for flamenco harp by Deborah Henson-Conant.
“I fell in love with this concerto the first time I heard it,” said harpist Christina Perez, a second-year master’s student. “I loved the Spanish influence and the contemporary techniques used by the composer. She wrote percussive rhythms that I play on the harp, almost hitting the harp when I do. She asks the harpist to use his fingernails to strum the harp like a guitar.
Freshman cellist Kaya Ralls also chose a Spanish-influenced concerto by Édouard Lalo. Lalo, a French composer, is perhaps best known for his spanish symphony for solo violin, but his cello concerto also has Spanish inflections. “The third movement pays homage to Spanish dance styles,” explained Kaya Ralls, “and the contrasting romantic sections showcase the incredible beauty for which Lalo and the cello are known.”
For some of the winners, the musical selection was about the instrument. First-year master’s student Nathan Culcasi chose Ferdinand David’s Concertino in E flat, op. 4, standard of the repertoire. The piece showcases the instrument’s range and ability – something Culcasi is familiar with. He plays the trombone classically in jazz bands and played with his father in a German polka band in high school. “My father was an amateur rock musician. I heard a lot of loud electric guitar at night,” said Culcasi, who started out on clarinet. “One day my dad saw a used paper clip on Craigslist, bought it, and brought it home for me to try.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Other musical selections deal with modern themes. Hannah Miller, second-year master’s student, chose Francis Poulenc’s program The Lady of Monte Carlo, a soprano monologue with orchestra that explores the thoughts of an abandoned, elderly woman in Monte Carlo contemplating suicide. The monologue was written by poet Jean Cocteau, describing the decadent and decaying Monte Carlo of 1924, and set to music by Poulenc in 1961.
“It’s a fascinating train of thought,” Miller said. “To me, those first three bars sound like the ocean swelling. We see her looking out over the Mediterranean and contemplating her life, her choices, the people around her.
Alexander Lee chose a contemporary saxophone piece, that of Guillaume Connesson A kind of Trane. Composed in 2015, it pays homage to the titanic influence of John Coltrane through jazz, classical and other popular forms of music, including techno rave music. “I’ve always loved jazz, I’ve loved saxophone in multiple contexts,” Lee said.
In addition to the eight winners, five students received honorable mentions. The judges for this year’s competition were Sharon Laveryresident conductor of the Southern California Thornton Symphony and Tomasz Golkaconductor, composer and violinist with chamber orchestra and wind ensemble.
The full list of 2022 All-Star winners is as follows:
- Nathan Culcasi, trombone (first-year master’s student).
- Hanna Hrybkova, violin (first-year master’s student).
- Sabrina Langlois, voice (first-year master’s student).
- Alexander Lee, saxophone (fourth year undergraduate).
- Hannah Miller, voice (second-year master’s student).
- Christina Perez, harp (second-year master’s student).
- Arutyun Piloyan, violin (first-year master’s student).
- Kaya Ralls, cello (first year undergraduate).
- Christian Gonzales, violin (fourth year undergraduate).
- Joseph Kim, cello (fourth year undergraduate).
- Nicholas Kim, clarinet (first year undergraduate).
- Sean Takada, violin (second year undergraduate).
- Aiden Tang, piano (first year undergraduate).
17th annual star concert
Sunday, June 5, 4 p.m. PT
Royce Hall + Live Stream