Fierce and friendly concerto competition ends in close finish

Story by Brandon Adams

After three exceptional performances, the annual Concerto Competition has been completed, and the winner of the spring 2016 finalists has been announced. The finalists were percussionist Landon Adams, flutist Rachelle Crowell and violinist Paola Zamario; in the end Landon Adams was awarded the winning title.

Rachelle Crowell, Landon Adams, and Paola Zamario
Rachelle Crowell, Landon Adams, and Paola Zamario

During the concert, each musician performed a piece of their choosing with the Colorado State University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Wes Kenney.

“The competition was extremely close, and all of our contestants played with style and bravura,” Kenney said. “The judges had a tough time making a decision.”

This year’s judges were Karen Kinzie, violinist with the Colorado Symphony; John Kinzie, head of percussion for the Colorado Symphony; and Ian Wisekal, oboe faculty at the University of Denver.

About the competition

The Concerto Competition is one of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s premiere events during the school year. Special Assistant Professor Adam A. Torres described the competition in-depth in a recent interview.

“The Concerto Competition is open to all members within the woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboard and string divisions, and consists of a series of rounds,” Torres explained. “In the opening divisional round, each area will hear soloists and select a handful of participants to compete in the semifinals round. From there, the CSU School of Music brings in outside adjudication to determine which three performers will have the opportunity to collaborate with the University Orchestra in the Finals Round of the Concerto Competition.”

The opportunity to perform in the 2016 Concerto Competition meant a great deal to the three participants. Each student expressed genuine excitement about performing with the University Symphony Orchestra, and were humbled to have been selected for the final round, stating that the performance matters far more than the competition itself. For Paola Zamario, being on stage with people she knows in the orchestra enhances the joy of performing. “I am thrilled for the opportunity to perform one of my favorite concertos and share the stage with such an amazing group of talented musicians and close friends,” she said. “My goal is to make music at the highest level, have fun, and simply enjoy the moment!”

Preparatory measures

Advancement to this stage of the competition was no small feat. Preparation started months ago, and the monumental task of mastering an intrinsically artistic piece took a tremendous amount of dedication. In addition to the hours spent practicing the absolutely essential fundamentals, each student analyzed their piece in different forms to better understand the composer’s intent. For instance, Rachelle Crowell dissected the piece aurally in multiple facets.

“When I was away from my flute, I would listen to recordings of the work while also studying the score so that I could better familiarize myself with the ways in which the flute and orchestra parts fit together,” she said. “I also spent time listening to some of Rouse’s other compositions as a means of getting to know his compositional style.”

An incredible amount of thought was put into selecting the pieces, with careful consideration for the magnitude of the event and venue, the amount of time required to master the piece, and the possibility of artistic growth while studying it. For some, the desire to perform their selected concerto had been years in the making, while another pictured who would be in the audience. For Landon Adams, it was the latter. “I chose this piece specifically because of how accessible it is to an audience,” he said. “It is extremely fun and exciting to play and listen to…I picked it in order to play it for my friends and family.”

When it came to the night of the performance, audience members received an exceptionally high caliber performance by some of Colorado State’s premier talent. Each performer dedicated a lot of time to this competition, and there was no better stage in Northern Colorado than Griffin Concert Hall for them to share their passion.

Landon Adams

Landon Adams

Landon Adams is a Colorado native and has always been involved in music. He started private drum lessons at age 6 and continued with the same instructor until he joined the CSU percussion studio in 2009. Adams has performed at Carnegie Hall with the Mountain Vista High School Wind Ensemble and in Dublin, Ireland, with the CSU Marching Band in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He received his B.M. at CSU and is currently working on his M.M. in Performance.

While studying percussion at CSU with Dr. Eric Hollenbeck, Adams has had many wonderful performance opportunities, including performing at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, as well as countless performances with the CSU Symphonic Band, Wind Symphony, Marching Band and Percussion Ensembles. Adams is a fully qualified percussion educator, performer, composer and arranger. While focusing his sights on the Denver metro area, Adams teaches and performs all over Colorado. Adams specializes in a wide array of percussion instruments, including marimba, concert snare drum, accessory percussion, hand drums and marching percussion. After finishing his master’s at CSU, Adams plans on building his own private studio in the Denver area.