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Seniors Anne Ziegler and Zsanna Bodor were two of seven winers in the Concerto/Aria com­pe­tition. Courtesy | Anne Ziegler

The music department announced seven winners of the Concerto/Aria com­pe­tition on Monday.

Out of the 26 stu­dents who audi­tioned on Sunday, there were seven winners: sophomore violist Ethan Tong, senior soprano Emma Dawe, senior vio­linist Ellie Fishlock, senior pianist Anne Ziegler, senior mezzo Car­oline Lively, senior soprano Zsanna Bodor, and senior soprano Michaela Stiles.

Stu­dents were tasked with mem­o­rizing and per­forming 10 minute pieces in front of three guest judges: Clayton Parr, voice pro­fessor and director of choirs at Albion College, David Abbot, piano pro­fessor and music department chair at Albion College, and Alicia Valoti, viola pro­fessor at Central Michigan Uni­versity. Audi­ences were not per­mitted in the audition room. 

James Holleman, pro­fessor of music and director of orchestras and choirs at Hillsdale College, said that the judges indi­vid­ually cri­tiqued each per­for­mance and then dis­cussed their results and decided the top group of stu­dents. 

Tong, a first time par­tic­ipant, expressed his grat­itude for being chosen as one of the winners. 

“A lot of people deserve to place in this com­pe­tition and I feel very humbled that I was chosen,” Tong said. “There’s a lot of talent within our department.” 

Beginning his prepa­ration in the spring of 2020, Tong started learning his piece, the first movement of “Der Schwa­nen­dreher” by Hin­demith, 10 months ago. 

“I chose it because it was really hard and really fun to play. This piece is def­i­nitely harder to get used to because it’s by a modern com­poser; it doesn’t sound like your typical Mozart or Brahms,” Tong said. 

Tong pre­pared by prac­ticing for 30 – 40 minutes three to four times a week and lis­tening to other player’s inter­pre­tation of the piece. When it came time to audition, he said he was nervous. 

“The hardest part was the nerves, as with every com­pe­tition,” Tong said. “The opening part of my piece is me playing by myself, without the piano, and I was very scared because my fingers were trem­bling before I put them on the strings. But it had become muscle memory and it felt very natural playing the piece.” 

Fishlock, having com­peted for the past three years in a row, described her intensive process for mem­o­rizing her 10 minute long piece. 

“I would listen to my piece every­where I went, in my car, while I was walking to classes, and that helped me learn it,” Fishlock said. “I would usually just practice by myself for half an hour, but I began per­forming it for other people in the orchestra during the few weeks leading up to the com­pe­tition.”

Due to COVID-19, no audience members were allowed to be in atten­dance during the audi­tions, which pre­sented a dif­fi­culty for the players. 

“I am a much better per­former when I’m playing for people that I know, so having an audience is always very helpful because I can play to them, not the judges, and that inspires me a lot more,” Fishlock said. 

Dawe also believed that the lack of com­munity involvement took an element away from the com­pe­tition, but made her even more excited to perform her piece in the spring. 

“I hadn’t par­tic­i­pated in the com­pe­tition before, but I always attended because I had friends per­forming, so it was always a com­munity event. As a singer myself, it’s just more fun when you’re singing for your friends and the people sup­porting you,” Dawe said. “But I’m excited to sing in front of an audience. I have friends in the orchestra and who have their solos as well, so I’m looking forward to par­tic­i­pating in this group.” 

As a singer, Dawe explained that there were chal­lenges with preparing her piece since she wasn’t using an instrument. 

“I know instru­men­talists prac­ticed a lot more than I did, but it’s harder for the voice because it’s a part of your body that you can’t overwork. Playing an instrument is dif­ferent; you can’t tire out a violin,” Dawe said. 

Through all of their hard work, prepa­ration, and ded­i­cation, Dawe said that the par­tic­i­pants and winners of the com­pe­tition were given an oppor­tunity that most people don’t have. 

“I’m very glad we did it. I didn’t realize until this week, but not many schools are able to do any­thing like this, so I was grateful that we were able to compete, even though it might’ve been a bit dif­ferent this year,” Dawe said.