Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - February 7, 2014

Symphony to present 'American Idols'

Concert features winners of Young Musicians Competition

The Livermore-Amador Symphony's next concert, the second concert of its 51st season, will be "American Idols" on Feb. 22 at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore.

The program includes the "Unfinished Symphony" by Franz Schubert, "Lincoln Portrait" by Aaron Copland (with narration by former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry) and Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2, "Romantic."

In addition, the winners of the Symphony's Competition for Young Musicians will be featured: clarinetist Robert Shi from Livermore High School and pianist Arie Chen from Amador Valley High. Conducting will be Dr. Arthur Barnes, who is in his 50th and final season as music director of the symphony.

Shi will perform the first movement of Bernhard Crusell's Clarinet Concerto in F minor. In 2013, Shi was second chair under professors H. Robert Reynolds and Sharon Lavery at New York's Carnegie Hall for the American High School Honors Performance Series. He was selected by audition to study clarinet performance under professor Ethan Sloane at the Tanglewood Institute in Massachusetts. He also studied under the baton of Maestro Jindong Cai in the Stanford Youth Orchestra (SYO).

"Music is a gateway to a culture that has truly changed the way I value my community and society as a whole," Shi said. "When I perform a piece of music, it is like stepping into the composer's era and interpreting his experiences, from what may be the entirety of his life, within the time-frame of a few minutes."

In 2010, Shi launched the nonprofit Livermore-Pleasanton Youth Outreach Symphony with John Ingram to promote classical music and provide entertainment for the community. In 2011, he established the East Bay Association of Visiting Musicians to interact with and comfort hospice residents; the musicians have entertained 140 hospice patients. Early in 2013, along with his teacher, Shi founded the Tri-Valley Youth Clarinet Choir for advanced clarinetists to practice challenging ensemble music.

The son of Michael and Sally Shi, and a senior at Livermore High, Shi is a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist plus founder and president of the Badminton Club, and vice president of the school's debate team.

Pianist Chen will perform the first movement of Chopin's Concerto No. 2, in F minor. After five years of piano lessons, Chen began to embrace the competition floor. He was chosen for a local Liszt Festival in 2012. A year later he received third place in the U.S. Open Showcase Solo intermediate category.

Chen is the son of Yu-To Chen and Chih-Chien Tsai and a freshman at Amador Valley, where he pursues his other musical interest, the violin -- which he began playing in fourth grade. Since starting violin lessons with Abraham Becker, in 2012, he was selected for the California All-State Junior High Orchestra's debut year and the California Honor High School String Orchestra at the University of Redlands.

Chen also enjoys swimming, and belongs to Tzu-Chi, a group dedicated to improving the environment and society.

"The thing I love most about piano, and music in general, is that whatever emotion you are feeling, whether it be happy or sad, can be expressed through your playing and you can pour it all out and express it however you want," Chen said. "Since the day I first played a Chopin nocturne, Chopin and Romantic music in general have become my favorite to play. I think that piano is something that can stick with you for a lifetime and, in the end, it is an incredibly rewarding choice."

Following Chopin, the orchestra will perform Copland's moving, classical orchestral work, "Lincoln Portrait," commissioned by conductor Andre Kostelanetz in 1942 as part of the patriotic war effort. Descriptions of Lincoln and words that he said are interspersed with the music. The piece will be narrated by Perry, who served as U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1994-97 and is currently a professor emeritus at Stanford University.

The final piece will be Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2, "Romantic." Hanson was an American composer who directed the Eastman School of Music for 40 years, and then served as the head of the school's Institute for American Music.

The concert begins at 8 p.m. on Feb. 22, with a prelude talk from 7-7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at www.bankheadtheater.org or by calling 373-6800.

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