Dedication, Artistry, and a Little Bit of Luck: Celebrating this Year’s Concerto Competition Winners

RSC Conservatory News

Left to right: Joseph Juhasz (bassoon), William J. Kim (cello), Henry Tushman (piano), and Max Wei (violin). Outer photos by Jamie Stewardson. Inner photos by Dave Jamrog.

At the start of 2024, four remarkable RSC students lit up the stage at Regis College’s Fine Arts Center with their sensational concerto performances. In February, winners of this year’s Rivers Youth Orchestra Competition, Joseph Juhasz (bassoon) and Max Wei (violin), soloed with Rivers Youth Symphony and Philharmonia. William J. Kim (cello) and Henry Tushman (piano), the winners of the 2024 RSC Concerto Competition, played with the Rivers Symphony Orchestra just a few weeks ago. Throughout their performances, they each brought a joy so palpable that they were met with roaring applause.

Both concerto competitions are held annually by RSC, and although many students participate, only two winners are selected per competition. The musicianship of these four winners particularly showed and impressed the judges. “I was extremely surprised when I found out that I was selected as one of the winners,” said Joseph Juhasz, who studies bassoon with Donald Bravo. “It was nice to have this opportunity to share what I love about the bassoon—the richness, the playfulness, the human-like voice—all of which are brought out in Weber’s Bassoon Concerto.”

For Juhasz, rehearsing and performing with the Rivers Youth Symphony was an especially moving experience, saying, “Ever since I first came across the Weber Bassoon Concerto, I’ve loved its jubilance; however, I did not find the universal power in this piece until our rehearsals, when I could see that my fellow orchestra members were also struck by its jubilance.” The concerto competitions bring together the RSC community in a unique way, allowing the soloist to share the piece they have put so much into and getting to collaborate on it with their peers.

Video by Jamie Stewardson.

RSC’s concerto competitions invite students to challenge themselves to learn a piece from inside out, from memory, while discovering self-confidence and leaning on the support of their community at RSC and their loved ones. “I was so excited and thankful to find out that I was selected as one of this year’s concerto competition winners,” exclaimed William J. Kim. “I am inspired by my teacher, Mr. Ronald Lowry, who makes playing cello so much fun! The Haydn Cello Concerto is one of my favorite pieces. I really like how Yo-Yo Ma plays it joyfully, so this inspires me too.” Kim’s siblings, who are also musicians with musical accomplishments of their own, have had a monumental impact on him. “I am also inspired by my older brother, Andrew, who also plays cello, and my older sister, Ella, who plays violin.”

Video by Dave Jamrog.

After looking back on his audition and rehearsal experience, Max Wei shared how he was particularly proud of how much he has grown as a violin player and how crucial goal setting was in preparing Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole. Wei and his violin teacher, Kelly Barr, worked diligently together, paying special attention to the finer details. “When I first rehearsed with Philharmonia, I was very excited,” said Wei. “I felt very honored to be able to work with so many talented musicians and Ms. MacDonald, who has been guiding me since third grade. I really enjoyed hearing the orchestral part blend in with my part.”

Video by Jamie Stewardson.

By dedicating the time to meticulous practice and making the piece their own, the reward of performing as a concerto soloist is an exhilarating experience. Pianist Henry Tushman, who studies with Sandra Hebert, explained that “It’s a different kind of playing… in that you have to project more than when you are playing alone.” After sitting in one rehearsal, one would immediately observe the careful balancing act between the orchestra and concerto soloist. The orchestral strings and winds cannot be over indulgent in their sound or else they risk competing with the soloist, and as a soloist “You need to show that you can collaborate with a big orchestra, while being clear about your musical ideas,” said Tushman, who seemed to effortlessly express a variety of operatic characters in his interpretation of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21.

Video by Dave Jamrog.

The concerto competitions at RSC carry a deep purpose, to give RSC students the chance to learn more about their sound and experience concertos in the setting they were written for. The tremendous dedication of these young artists is truly admirable and has surely encouraged others to consider participating in next year’s concerto competitions.

Learn more about the Rivers Youth Orchestra Competition and RSC Concerto Competition.