The 13th annual ArtWorks Youth Music Performance Competition will take place Nov. 4., when students ages 11 – 18 will have the opportunity to showcase their musical talents. ArtWorks of Hillsdale, the county’s arts and culture council, is hosting this annual musical competition. Students compete for cash prizes in vocal, string, keyboard, brass and wind, and ensemble categories.
“The purpose of the event is to give students a chance to practice their performance skills and get coaching from judges who are very skilled in their respective categories,” Connie Sexton, president of ArtWorks, said.
Each participant is allotted approximately eight minutes on stage. Judges offer critiques in real time, not just a final judgement, with the hope that the event will be an instructive learning opportunity for young musicians.
Performers will vie for awards of up to $100 for high schoolers and $50 for middle schoolers. Students under the age of 11 are also invited to perform for the judges and receive a critique of their performance, although they are ineligible for awards. Prizes are funded by local businesses and individuals.
“We sent out sponsorship letters to supporters and told them we had an exciting year planned,” Sexton said. “We had a great response.”
In addition to sponsoring the prizes, donations help offset the cost of transportation and accommodations for the judges, whom the council invites from outside the county. This year’s panel includes vocalist and Hillsdale College alumna Giles Simmer, Hillsdale College music faculty member Jacqueline Hanson, and pianist Nikie Oechsle of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra.
Approximately 25 students are expected to participate in the competition, a decrease of about 50 percent from previous years. David Peshlakai, vice president of ArtWorks, attributes the drop to the fact that the event is being held two months earlier than normal. Nonetheless, he said he hopes the change will pay off.
“The goal in moving it earlier was to give kids a head-start in preparing for the bigger statewide and national competitions that are also coming up in a few weeks,” Peshlakai said. “We wanted to give students the chance to do a dry-run and get feedback.”
Heather Tritchka said her daughter Chloe has participated in the ArtWorks competition since seventh grade, taking first place in keyboard three times and winning the senior vocal division twice. Now a senior at Hillsdale Academy, Chloe hopes to continue pursuing music at Hillsdale College. Her mother credits the competition’s low-pressure, educational atmosphere with fostering her daughter’s love for music.
“Artworks was a gentle way for my child to get some experience performing and competing,” Tritchka said. “Going to that first ArtWorks competition was a good way to get over the fear of the word ‘competition,’ which is a real concern for a lot of kids. But the judges were so kind and helpful and encouraging and she really appreciated it.”
Peshlakai said he hopes the 2018 competition will be no different.
“We’re really looking forward to creating a positive experience for the students competing at this year’s event.”
The event will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at Hillsdale First Presbyterian Church. The contest is open to the public.