Thirteen hopeful finalists are gearing up to compete for the title of Butterfield Young Musician of the Year at the Harquail Theatre on June 5.
The event will be the culmination of a series of auditions which took place over three weeks at Cayman schools. Open to students ages 18 and younger, the auditions attracted more than 150 young musicians.
The 13 finalists range in age from 15 to 18 and include students of piano, voice, violin, clarinet, euphonium, saxophone and steel pan from the following schools: Clifton Hunter High School, Cayman Academy, Triple C School, Cayman International School, Cayman Music School, St. Ignatius Catholic School and Cayman School for Pan.
On the evening, one exceptional performer will win the honor and a cash prize of $500. First and second place runners-up will be awarded cash prizes of $300 and $150, respectively.
Concert pianist Glen Inanga, director of music at the University College of the Cayman Islands, along with Grammy award-winning conductor and violinist John McLaughlin Williams (awarded for his recording of Olivier Messaien’s “L’Oiseau Exotiques (Exotic Birds) for Orchestra and Piano” with pianist Angelin Chang), will again judge the competition.
The competition, which began in 2008, was the brainchild of Frances McConvey, former head of music at George Hicks High School (now Clifton Hunter High School) who, according to Inanga, suggested starting it to provide a suitable vehicle for students who wanted to excel and be distinguished beyond receiving gold, silver or bronze for their musical performances at the National Children’s Festival of the Arts.
“It is so important for young Caymanians as a tool for raising standards of music performance in order to benchmark with other jurisdictions,” says Inanga. “As an example of how far things have developed, the highest standard of playing of the selected finalists was equivalent to Trinity Guildhall Grade 6. Now the minimum standard of the finalists is Grade 8 or its equivalent.”
The two judges try to choose finalists from as wide a cross-section of instruments as possible, including voice, with selection based on their performances in the NCFA eliminations. Past winners have gone one to pursue careers in music, while others have carried on with their music development overseas at their respective universities.
McLaughlin Williams, who first came to the island in 2004 to conduct the first concert at the Cayman Arts Festival, says that when it comes to talent, the judges look for more than technical competency.
“We want and expect them to infuse their performances with musicianship that transcends the technical, for it is the truly musical performance that makes an audience respond beyond mere applause,” he says. “It is the artistic impulse that moves the hearts of listeners, and that is, by far, the more difficult thing to master.”
Guidelines for the finalist competition are stringent. Inanga emphasizes that they are after performances in which risks are taken and people take themselves out of their comfort zone and show star quality. The judging criteria is based on his and McLaughlin Williams’ own worldwide competition experience.
“We have to be honest as a performing artist about what counts in a performance and what young performers should be aspiring toward if they are to reach the artistic heights demanded of them ‘out there,’” says Inanga.
Contestants are required to perform two contrasting solo works for 10 minutes, with one of the works required to be from the classical music genre. Additionally, Butterfield Bank, sponsor of the competition, requests that all finalists prepare a written program to introduce themselves and give detailed information about the two pieces they choose to perform.
McLaughlin Williams says, “We expect their presentations to be professional in preparation and execution (my violin teacher would say ‘clean, in tune and with good sound’), and we look for individuality in their approach.
“A performance should reflect a big picture conception, an indication that the performer has thought about the implications of playing or singing a work in a certain way.”
His advice for contestants: “Win or lose, that is only today. There is tomorrow, and that is a different story altogether. Concern yourself with being great rather than winning.”
McLaughlin Williams says there are no overnight successes and one must be prepared to be in the game for the long haul.
“Those who do well invariably work hard, show great patience and take advantage of opportunities both self-created and those that come their way … we live in a media age that presents things as having happened very quickly. They do not – no matter the age of the performer. The successful are also generous; they help others succeed along the way, for no one gets there alone. Others’ successes can ultimately become one’s own.”
The competition takes place at 6:30 p.m., June 5 at the Harquail Theatre. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets at the door, $5 for adults;$2 for children.
Finalists for the 2014 Butterfield Young Musician of the Year competition
- David Brown, voice – Triple C School
- Ericka Rockett-McBean, voice – Clifton Hunter High School
- Chamelle Williams, voice – Cayman Academy
- Nayil Arana, violin – Cayman Music School
- Tsin Zan Graham, violin – Cayman International School
- Keeley-Shaye Ebanks, piano – St. Ignatius Catholic School
- Elena Tacchetto, piano – St. Ignatius Catholic School
- Deidra Campbell, clarinet – St. Ignatius Catholic School
- Aisha Stanuel-Taitte, euphonium – St. Ignatius Catholic School
- Ryan Kyberd, saxophone – St. Ignatius Catholic School
- Conor O’Dea, saxophone – St. Ignatius Catholic School
- Chaquira Hodgson, steel pan – Cayman School for Pan
- Ethan Whittaker, steel pan – Cayman School for Pan