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Young musicians honored by Rochester Philharmonic League play concert this Sunday

Rochester Philharmonic League Grand Prize winner Luke Pisani with Young Artists Auditions co-chair Paul Ness

On Sunday, July 10, local student musicians will play a free concert at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music. The performers are four of the eleven musicians who are being recognized this year as winners of the Young Artists Auditions, a competition run by the Rochester Philharmonic League.

The league was founded in 1929 as a volunteer support group for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. It's been giving awards, both honors and financial support, to student musicians since 1955.

“We’re thrilled to be able to support and recognize the focus and accomplishment of these young musicians, along with the oversight and commitment from their parents and teachers,” says Young Artists Auditions Co-Chair Paul Ness. “Many of this competition’s winners over the years have gone on to highly successful careers as performers, music educators, and professionals in other music-related fields. It is a privilege to have this opportunity to experience their performance in public.”

Edward "Eddy" Wu will be playing a saxophone sonata by Lawson Lunde at this Sunday's "Young Artists" concert at Kilbourn Hall

This year’s winners include saxophonist Edward Wu, who just finished his sophomore year of high school. He’s enthusiastic about experimenting with new approaches in classical music, or extended techniques, where he says, “You’re really just playing around with the instrument and finding cool and different sounds that it can make,” including extended notes through circular breathing and the acoustic percussive sounds made by clicking the keys.

Wu also finds meaning in the musical community that surrounds him, including participating in student-led programs playing music at senior centers, where he says he finds joys both in the music and in bringing a smile to the face of others.

Singer Leah Brooks is another of the musicians performing as part of Sunday's young artists concert. She’ll sing several songs, including the beloved Giacomo Puccini aria, “O Mio babbino caro,” where she gets to bring out the deeper meaning of what is often just heard as a pretty love song: “It’s really about this daughter,” she says, “who is pleading to her father to marry this man....It’s actually really dark, and at the end of it, she’s just sobbing, pleading ‘O, Babbo, pietà.’”

Leah Brooks.jpeg
Soprano Leah Brooks is home on stage, singing both classical songs and music theater

Brooks, who also plays piano and harp, is planning to study astrophysics at RIT when she starts college this fall. Music will continue to be an important part of her life, as it has been for many years. She says she loves performing, and "it doesn’t matter what it’s for, if it’s an audition, a rigorous competition....Whenever I’m on stage, I can breathe. I don’t get nervous or stressed. I’m home up on that stage.”

You can hear Edward Wu and Leah Brooks, performing alongside violinist Luke Pisani and singer Michael Cullinan, in the Rochester Philharmonic League’s young artists concert this Sunday, July 10, at 7:30pm at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music.

Mona Seghatoleslami is the host and producer on WXXI Classical 91.5 FM weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. She also hosts the lunchtime concert series Live From Hochstein at 12:10 p.m. Wednesdays, interviews musicians, produces special programs, and works on any project she can find that helps connect people and music in our community through WXXI.