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Sophomore Keely Rendle will perform a violin solo in the May sym­phony orchestra concert. Keely Rendle | Courtesy
 At the beginning of each spring semester, more than 20 stu­dents — music and non-music majors — vie for a coveted spot to perform a solo with the Hillsdale College Sym­phony Orchestra. On Monday the music department announced this year’s winners: Sophomore Keely Rendle, junior Thomas Ryskamp, and senior Susena Finegan will perform in the May concert.

“I’ve never soloed with an orchestra before,” Rendle, the grand prize winner, said, “so I’m expecting it to be a little intim­i­dating, but also really thrilling — and a real priv­ilege.”

Juniors Tova Forman, a vio­linist, and Clara Fishlock, a flutist, will perform in the March orchestra concert. Seniors Heather Wood­house and Gregory Farison, a flutist and a cellist, earned hon­orable men­tions.

Three judges, musi­cians or faculty from music depart­ments at nearby schools, select the winners. This year the judges were a pianist from Ann Arbor, an orchestra con­ductor at Hope College, and the head of the music department at Wayne State Uni­versity.

For almost 20 years, the music department has hosted its Concerto/Aria Com­pe­tition to select four to five stu­dents to perform solo pieces during the spring orchestra con­certs. 

To compete in the com­pe­tition, stu­dents typ­i­cally begin prac­ticing their pieces the spring semester the year before, but Rendle, a transfer student, didn’t begin learning her piece until a couple of weeks into the fall semester. Her violin instructor, Pro­fessor of Music Melissa Knecht, invited her to practice one of two pieces, and Rendle chose Bruch’s “Violin Con­certo No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26, 1st.” 

“I thought it was more emo­tional, or haunting, and beau­tiful,” Rendle said.

Ryskamp audi­tioned for the com­pe­tition last year, but this was the first time he placed. He’ll perform Beethoven’s “Piano Con­certo No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58, 1st” on piano. 

“This piece has an element of sen­si­tivity and sub­tlety that last year’s piece didn’t have as much,” Ryskamp said.

Finegan, a soprano, will perform Menotti’s “Steal Me, Sweet Thief” from “The Old Maid and the Thief.”

The Hillsdale College Sym­phony Orchestra will perform March 1 and May 10.

Knecht, who pre­pared both Rendle and Forman to perform solo with the orchestra, said the student musi­cians at Hillsdale impressed her with their talent and dili­gence.

“I think at Hillsdale we have, in our music department, some really gifted and intel­ligent stu­dents who are just devoted to any­thing that they do,” Knecht said. “Any com­mitment they take on, they have the joy of accom­plishing it in extra­or­dinary ways.”