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School of Music, Dance and Theatre presents concerto, composition competition winners

Each year, the Arizona State University School of Music, Dance and Theatre holds concerto and composition competitions with the aim of providing its top performers and composers the rare and coveted opportunity to perform or have their work performed by a large ensemble. The winners are presented in a concert season beginning Dec. 1, with concert programs built around the winning selections.

The ASU Symphony Orchestra. Photo courtesy the School of Music, Dance and Theatre

“Performing a concerto is a high distinction and honor as there are very few such opportunities for developing artists, and the competition for those opportunities is very high,” said Jeffery Meyer, associate professor and director of orchestras.

The winners of the 2022 ASU Concerto Competition are Leon Jin, bassoon; Angelita Ponce, percussion; and Tzu-I Yang, double bass. Jin and Yang will perform on Dec. 1, and Ponce will perform on Feb. 14, 2023.

Double bassist Yang, born in Tainan City, Taiwan, is a Doctor of Musical Arts student of renowned bassist and pedagogue Catalin Rotaru, who is also a professor at ASU. She graduated from Taipei National University of the Arts with a Bachelor of Music in performance and holds a Master of Music from ASU.

Bassoonist Jin is currently studying with Professor Albie Micklich and will complete his Doctor of Musical Arts in bassoon performance in December. He is a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral player and educator. Jin earned his Master of Music at ASU and his Bachelor of Music at Central Washington University.

Percussionist Ponce graduated with a Master of Music in performance from ASU in May. She is an active performer, has played with a wide variety of percussion ensembles and taught percussion in several high school programs in the Phoenix area.

The jury for the concerto competition includes faculty from each music performance area in the school — strings, keyboard, voice, winds, brass and percussion/guitar/harp — with the requirement that they do not have a student in the competition. This year’s members include Julie Desbordes, Philharmonia; Jamal Duncan, Wind Bands; Jonathan Swartz, strings; Christopher Creviston, winds; Josef Burgstaller, brass; Caio Pagano, keyboards; Jiji Kim, guitar/harp/percussion; and Gordon Hawkins, voice. 

In 2020, the large ensemble directors, in collaboration with the composition faculty, created a composition competition to provide the school’s composition students an opportunity to write for orchestra or wind band. The winner has the opportunity to have their compositions workshopped and presented with one of the large ensembles in subsequent concert seasons.

“We aim to provide ASU student composers meaningful opportunities to write new works through this competition as well as foster and encourage the development of innovative new works for large ensembles,” said Meyer.

The 2022 composition winners are Deanna Rusnock, Master of Music in performance, and Carlos Zárate, Master of Music in composition. Rusnock’s piece will be performed on April 24, 2023, and Zárate’s piece will be performed during the 2023–24 season after it is workshopped with the ASU Symphony Orchestra several times throughout the 2022–23 season.

Rusnick graduated from ASU with a Bachelor of Music in theory and composition. She is an accomplished pianist and plays the flute, guitar, violin, viola, bass, drums, accordion, ukulele, trumpet, slide trombone and mallet percussion.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Zárate is currently pursuing a Master of Music in composition at ASU. He writes acoustic and electroacoustic music and is interested in timbre and exploring different ways in which other artistic expressions can foster musical structures.

The 2022 composition competition jury included faculty members Jeffery Meyer, director of Orchestras; Julie Desbordes, music director of Philharmonia; Jason Caslor, director of Wind Bands; Jamal Duncan, assistant director of Wind Bands; and composition faculty Gabriel Bolaños, Fernanda Navarro, Garth Paine, Jody Rockmaker and Alex Temple.

Meyer said the competition fosters creativity and composition skills as well as “an incentive to embark on the daunting adventure of writing for large ensembles.” The students work closely with their composition professors who, along with the large ensemble directors, mentor them throughout the creative process.

2022–23 Concerto and Composition Competition winners’ concerts:

Dec. 1, ASU Gammage — Tickets
Leon Jin, bassoon (concerto winner)
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, “Concerto for Bassoon”
ASU Chamber Orchestra
and
Tzu-I Yang, double bass (concerto winner)
Frank Proto, “A Carmen Fantasy for Double Bass & Orchestra”
ASU Chamber Orchestra

Feb. 14, ASU Gammage — Tickets
Angelita Ponce, percussion (concerto winner)
Sergei Golovko, “The Russian Marimba Concerto” 
ASU Philharmonia     

April 24, ASU Gammage — Tickets
Deanna Rusnock, piano (composition winner)
“Concerto for the Growing Pianist” performed by ASU faculty Andrew Campbell
ASU Philharmonia

Carlos Zárate, acoustic and electroacoustic (composition winner)
Composition will be workshopped in 2022–23 and premiered in 2023–24 with the ASU Symphony Orchestra.

lamacdon@asu.edu