Culley to showcase student solos

by Margot Byrne | 4/8/15 5:09pm

The Culley Concerto Competition, which will take place this Saturday afternoon in Spaulding Auditorium, features live solo performances by 19 Dartmouth student performers, Hopkins Center director of bands Matthew Marsit said. Ranging in instrument types from brass to strings, the soloists — competing in the annual competition established in 1988 by Grant and Suzanne Culley, parents of Maryly Culley ’86 — will aimto take home prizes for high achievement in orchestral performance.

Performers in the competition are divided into categories by instrument — winds, strings and brass — music professor Gregory Hayes said. The winner and runner-up in each division will win a cash prize.

According to Marsit, winners will be determined by a panel of three judges — William Drury, a faculty member at the New England Conservatory, David Wharton, a trumpet performer and professor at Williams College and Marguerite Levin, a clarinetist and a professor at Northeastern University.

“I think it is a very exciting opportunity for our students, not only the opportunity to perform as a soloist on the Spaulding Auditorium stage, but also to receive feedback and comments from a panel of professional musicians,” Marsit said.

Each performer is invited to play a maximum of 10 minutes of a work of their own choosing, Marsit said. For a major concerto, 10 minutes likely represents one movement of a work, and pieces are not always limited to concerti but may also include sonatas or other solo works originally composed for the performer’s instrument, he said.

Marsit said that students prepare their selections with private instructors, especially if they are already taking lessons in the College’s music department. For these students who prepare on their own, Marsit said, the competition serves as a valuable opportunity to receive constructive critiques on their performances.

Orestis Lykouropoulos ’17, the first-place string division winner in last year’s concerto and a member of the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, said he prepared for the competition last year with his violin instructor. He said that he and his teacher decided on an “appropriate” piece together and worked to perfect it.

“I would definitely advise people to participate in the Culley Concerto Competition,” Lykouropoulos said. “I think it is much better than most competitions because it is less about winning than it is about performing and getting feedback from professional musicians.”

Nicholas Graham, a graduate student at Dartmouth and the “Best Overall Performance” winner in last year’s concerto, said he prepared for his clarinet performance last year independently. Although Graham took a hiatus from the clarinet in college after 14 years of playing, he said he decided to take part in the Culley Concerto Competition to determine if he wanted to return to the music industry. After practicing on his own for two months in order to rebuild his technique, he emerged as a big winner at the competition.

“I’m grateful to the Culley Competition,” Graham said. “It made me reanalyze my relationship with music, [and] I realized that I can’t see my life without a performing career.”

Autumn Chuang ’16, a bassoonist in the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra who will be a first-time performer at the Culley Concerto Competition this year, said she decided to enter the competition as a preliminary experience before auditioning to be a senior soloist in the DSO. Chuang, who said she has never performed live in an official setting such as Culley, said that the competition is something she “feels she needs to do” before graduating.

“I think Culley is a good opportunity to work towards a personal goal instead of a group goal — there are different things to work on and pay attention to,” Chuang said. “The competition will showcase the work many people at Dartmouth put into their music, which I think is often underappreciated.”

Edward Carroll, a music professor and director of the Center for Advanced Musical Studies at Chosen Vale, said he asks all his students at the College to compete in the Culley Concerto Competition. He said he believes that live solo performance gives students something to work toward by allowing them to make their own musical choices.

Without such goals, Carroll said, daily practice and preparation can become “lethargic.”

“There is no classroom learning in the performing arts,” Carroll said. “It’s all about preparation, collaboration and execution under pressure.”