Three Columbia County pupils took three of the top four honors recently at the 2007 Augusta Symphony Youth Competition.
Qian Marilyn Li, 17, a senior at Lakeside High School, won the Jan. 14 competition's $150 top prize, and earned the right to appear as a featured performer with the symphony March 11.
Evans High junior Mi El Jang and Lakeside junior Paul Park shared third-place honors and received $50 each.
Jennifer Witcher, Augusta Symphony's director of education and outreach, said the three Columbia County students faced stiff competition from 17 other talented musicians from throughout the area.
The symphony started the competition in 1994 to motivate and reward young musicians, according to a news release.
"I feel totally excited and very honored to have this award," said Marilyn, 17. "The CSRA does have a lot of talented musicians and I'm very proud to be a part of a very talented group."
Competitors in the program played an entire movement of a classical piece of their choice on instruments including the piano, violin, trumpet, oboe and clarinet. They were judged by the symphony's music director, Dr. Donald Portnoy, and its assistant conductor, Neil Casey.
Marilyn chose Rachmaninoff's Second Concerto Opus 18, Moderato, and will perform the same piece during her March concert with the symphony. Incidentally, that performance will occur the day after her 18th birthday.
She said the chance to perform with the symphony was her motivation for trying out.
"Going on stage gets me excited, not nervous," she said of performing with the symphony. Marilyn said she plans to double major in college in piano and business.
Paul performed Stamitz's Concerto No. 3, First Movement. He said he took up clarinet about two years ago and was nervous performing before the judges.
"I was really nervous when I started to play and I started to blank out," Paul said. He said he does not remember much of his performance.
Paul, 17, hopes to major in music and biology in college.
Mi El, who performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto, Opus 37, 1st Movement, for the judges, also plays flute and violin. She said she had only practiced the piano piece for about three months before her audition.
"I didn't expect myself to be runner-up. I was really happy," she said. Mi El plans to keep music in her future.
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