Every spring, the Nashville Symphony recognizes gifted young musicians through two highly competitive award programs, the Curb Records Young Musicians Concerto Competition and the Thor Johnson Scholarship.
Violinist Mary Grace Johnson took top honors at the 2013 Curb Concerto Competition, held March 1-2 at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. As grand prize winner, Johnson was presented with a $3,000 scholarship, a SunTrust Classical Series ticket package for four, and the opportunity to perform as a soloist at the Nashville Symphony’s Side-by-Side Concert, taking place 7 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the Schermerhorn. This free annual concert is a showcase for the young musicians of the Curb Youth Symphony, who will perform alongside the Nashville Symphony. As featured soloist, Johnson will take the spotlight for the first movement of Samuel Barber’s Concerto for Violin.
Hailing from Murfreesboro, Johnson serves as concertmaster for the Curb Youth Symphony. She has performed solos at the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts and studies under Christian Teal, the Joseph Joachim Professor of Violin at the Blair School of Music.
Second place in the Curb Concerto Competition was awarded to tuba player John Paul Powers of Clinton, Tenn., who performed with the 2013 National Youth Orchestra of the United States, sponsored by Carnegie Hall. A student of Dr. Sean Greene in Knoxville, Powers is also a member of the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra and the 2013 All-State Band. Third place winner Mary Grace Bender, a cello player from Franklin, is a Myra Jackson Blair scholarship recipient and a student of Dr. Felix Wang at Blair School of Music. She has studied cello for 11 years and was the principal cellist for the Transylvania Symphony Orchestra last year.
The Curb Records Young Musicians Concerto Competition attracts high school students from across the state of Tennessee. This year, applicants between the ages of 14 and 18 prepared, practiced and then performed in a daylong audition on Saturday, March 1, with the semi-finalists called back for the final round the following day. The final round was judged by W.O. Smith Director Jonah Rabinowitz, Blair School of Music Assistant Dean Pam Schneller, Nashville Symphony Associate Conductor Kelly Corcoran, Nashville Symphony Cellist Brad Mansell and Nashville Symphony Vice President of Operations Mark Blakeman.
Thor Johnson Scholarship
Dedicated music students in fifth through 12th grades living in Davidson and surrounding Middle Tennessee counties are eligible to apply for the Thor Johnson Scholarship; named for the Nashville Symphony’s music director from 1967-75. The scholarship, presented by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra League, is designed to support and motivate young musicians through cash awards that can be used toward further their music studies.
High school seniors auditioned this year on Saturday, March 9, and for the first time in the history of the scholarship, a tie was declared for first place. Traditionally the $1,500 scholarship goes to a single winner, but when the numbers were tallied, both Kevin Wang and Mary Grace Johnson (also winner of the Curb Concerto Competition) won first place. Nashville Symphony Orchestra League member Anne Knauff provided matching funds to ensure that both winners received a $1,500 scholarship. Second place went to Jonathan Hearn, while Elly Fell, Kasey Hammond and Kaitlyn Edwards were awarded honorable mentions.
To learn more about the Nashville Symphony’s music education programs, which reach 80,000 students each year, visit NashvilleSymphony.org/Education.
The GRAMMY® Award-winning Nashville Symphony has earned an international reputation for its innovative programming and its commitment to performing, recording and commissioning works by America’s leading composers. The Nashville Symphony has released 19 recordings on Naxos, which have received 14 GRAMMY® nominations and seven GRAMMY® Awards, making NSO one of the most active recording orchestras in the country. With more than 140 performances annually, the 85-member orchestra offers a broad range of classical, pops and jazz, and children’s concerts, while its extensive education and community engagement programs inspire over 250,000 children and adults each year.