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The Wyoming Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artist Competition puts student musicians in the spotlight

A man sits in front of a piano holding a certificate.
Tarje Grover

Tarje Grover, a pianist, and winner of the collegiate division, played the first movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff's “Concerto No. 2.” A concerto is when an orchestra plays with a solo musician who is featured and plays in the very front. Grover played that part for his submission. He’s a first year graduate student at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. The competition is only open to people who are residents of Wyoming or who are undergraduate students in the state. Grover was able to enter because he grew up in Powell.

“Being able to bring back the efforts and the work that I have put into the state where I grew up and hopefully be able to give a performance that people I know and friends from back home are going to be able to listen to and appreciate is definitely something important to me,” Grover said.

Grover has been playing piano ever since he was six years old, taking lessons in the local area. He participated in the last Young Artist Competition two years ago, earning the runner-up prize.

“It's a great opportunity for Wyoming natives and students who go to school at the University of Wyoming to be able to prepare a concerto and compete in front of a group of accredited judges, and to have the opportunity to be able to perform with a group as special as the Wyoming Symphony,” Grover said.

The Wyoming Symphony is an audition-only professional orchestra, which means most students are not going to have the experience of playing with musicians of that caliber, yet winners of the competition get to experience that. Grover says the Young Artist Competition helps other students share their efforts with friends, family, and other Wyomingites.

“I think that a lot of times, music in Wyoming is sometimes overlooked,” Grover said.

Plus, he said it can bring together musicians in the large and rural state.

“People from within the state have to go outside of their immediate locale to find opportunities. But this is an opportunity that's great, built within the state of Wyoming, by the state of Wyoming,” Grover said.

Students in high school can also participate in a separate group. Elisa Lee, a sophomore cellist at Laramie High School, won the division. She competed at the last Young Artists Competition but didn’t win.

“So I tried again this year, kind of by accident, because my teacher just pulled up her camera and was like, ‘Okay, we're gonna record your piece and enter you in this other competition,’” Lee said.

One person plays a piano and another plays a cello.
Elisa Lee

Lee played “Pezzo Capriccioso” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. She said she enjoyed the intensity and diverse range of the piece. Lee has never played with a professional orchestra before, but she’s looking forward to playing her concerto with the Wyoming Symphony.

“I think it's gonna be a really interesting experience. Not many people get this opportunity, so I think it's gonna be pretty fun,” Lee said.

Thirteen students competed in both high school and collegiate divisions. To apply, they had to send in a recording of them playing a solo from a concerto. Rebecca Hebert, the Executive Director of the orchestra, helped organize the event. She said every student that participated received comments from judges.

“Feedback is valuable and all of these students are trying really hard to be better musicians. You can tell they all work incredibly hard at their instrument. So we just thought it's important to do a little something to help them along their way,” Hebert said.

In addition to getting feedback and playing with the orchestra, the winners earn a cash prize. Hebert organizes a lot of events for her job but she said, “I really love this competition. I think it's my favorite thing I do.”

She agrees with Grover, the collegiate winner, that, “It's really inspiring to see these talented musicians we have in Wyoming. I don't think that they have enough opportunities to really show what they're capable of. So very exciting that we can give them a chance to do that.”

The concert where Grover and Lee will perform their submissions will be held on May 11 at 7:30 PM at Natrona County High School’s John F. Welsh Auditorium in Casper. The next Young Artist Competition will be held two years from now.

Originally from Casper, Wyoming, Taylor moved to Laramie, Wyoming in the fall of 2020. She is a fourth-year journalism major with a minor in jazz at the University of Wyoming. She has participated in many musical ensembles on campus, including the University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra and the Western Thunder Marching Band. In her free time, she enjoys playing video games, watching cartoons, camping, and swimming.
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