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For Immediate Release:  March 16, 2017

Media Contact:   Sally Cohen, 585-749-1795,





43 area teens competed Sunday for $5,500 in cash & scholarships

Brighton’s Sarah Wager, double bass, wins chance to perform with the RPO


Rochester, NY – Founded in 1929 to support the education and outreach programs of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), the Rochester Philharmonic League (RPL) has held and funded its annual Young Artist Auditions for high school musicians since 1955. This year’s competition – held at the Eastman School of Music on Sunday, March 12th – saw 43 talented 10th, 11th and 12th graders from the Greater Rochester Area compete for a total of $5,500 in cash awards and scholarships. 


Five cash awards of $500 were offered for female vocalist, male vocalist, strings, piano and instrumental (woodwind, brass, percussion, harp or guitar). The winners and runners-up from the five award categories then competed for the vocal and instrumental $1,000 college scholarships. A Special Award winner – chosen from among the winners in the award categories – also has the opportunity to audition for a solo performance with the RPO. All winners are invited to perform in a free, public recital in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music during the summer. This year’s recital, Young Artists in Concert – A Celebration of Winners, is scheduled for Sunday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m.


Here are the 2017 award winners (name, instrument, grade, school, hometown, and private teacher):


Special Award (an opportunity to audition to perform with the RPO)

Winner: Sarah Wager, double bass, grade 12,  Brighton High School, Michael Griffin and Gaelen McCormick


Aldridge-Tinker Scholarship for Instrumentalists ($1000 college scholarship each)

Winners: Raymond Feng, piano, grade 10, Pittsford Sutherland, Elier Suarez

                Griffin Harrison, marimba, grade 12, School of the Arts, Rochester, Ruth Cahn


Jan DeGaetani Scholarship for Vocalists ($1000 college scholarship)

Winner: Mark Mitrano, tenor, grade 11, Greece Athena High School, Kathryn Dyer


Helen and George Greer Instrumental Award ($500)

Winner:  Isabella Lau, trombone, grade 11, Honeoye Falls-Lima High School, Mark Kellogg

Runner-up:  Griffin Harrison, marimba, grade 12, School of the Arts, Rochester, Ruth Cahn


Mildred and Julius Ness Award for Piano ($500)

Winner:  Raymond Feng, piano, grade 10, Pittsford Sutherland, Elier Suarez

Honorable Mention:  Michael Blum, piano, grade 11, Homeschool, Penfield, Michelle Bitler


Nobel Hirsh Award for Male Vocalists ($500)

Winner: Mark Mitrano, tenor, grade 11, Greece Athena High School, Kathryn Dyer 

Runner-up: Maxwell Flores, baritone, grade 12, Greece Odyssey Academy, Joseph Borrelli


Ruth and Sidney Salzman Award for Strings ($500)

Winner: Sarah Wager, double bass, grade 12,  Brighton High School, Michael Griffin and Gaelen McCormick

Runner-up: Samuel Nitsch, violin, grade 12, Penfield High School, Shannon Nance


Tessa Martin Award for Female Vocalists ($500)

Winner: Jazmine Saunders, soprano, grade 11, Greece Odyssey Academy, Rena Monti

Runner-up: Adriana Scalice, mezzo-soprano, grade 11, Penfield High School, Patricia Alexander


“We celebrate the accomplishments and dedication of all our participants, as well as the tremendous encouragement and support from their parents, teachers, and accompanists. Our judges are highly esteemed musicians and music educators who are dedicated to nurturing the talent and future of each talented young musician,” says League president Eileen Ramos. “In addition, our YAA chair Joanna Bassett has done a remarkable job heading our planning committee and volunteer team. The wonderful camaraderie among the participants, guests, accompanists, and volunteers is a hallmark of this competition, as is the positive encouragement from esteemed musicians who serve as judges each year.”


Judges for 2017 include RPO musicians, professors from the Eastman School of Music, Nazareth College, Roberts Wesleyan College, SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Potsdam, and the Hochstein School of Music and Dance:  


Vocal Judges: Jeffery McGhee (Roberts Wesleyan College); Kimberley Upcraft-Russ, mezzo-soprano (Nazareth College and SUNY Fredonia); William Scott (Hochstein School of Music)


Instrumental Judges: Lauren Becker, French horn (Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam); Eric LaPrade, tuba & conductor (Eastman School of Music doctoral candidate); Rose Vrbsky, bassoon (RPO)


String Judges: Alexander Peña, viola (Eastman Community Music School and Director of ROCMusic); Ellen Rathjen, violin (RPO); Cora Swenson Lee, cello (Hochstein School of Music)


Piano Judges: Sylvie Beaudette (Eastman School of Music); Vince Lenti (Eastman School of Music, Eastman Community Music School); Sarah Rhee-Tirre (Nazareth College)


Special Award & Scholarship Judges: Kieran Hanlon, string bass (SUNY Fredonia & Erie Philharmonic); Thomas Paul, bass (Eastman School of Music, retired); Jessica Sindell, flute & piccolo (RPO); Tony Caramia, piano (Eastman School of Music)


The Rochester Philharmonic League (RPL) was founded in 1929 as a volunteer support group for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. For more than 80 years, the two organizations have collaborated to further their common goal of providing great music and music education in the greater Rochester community. The League’s current activities focus on educating young people about music and the RPO, and on fostering the advancement of music talent in the community’s youth. 


The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has been committed to enriching and inspiring our community through the art of music since its founding in 1922. The RPO presents approximately 140 concerts and broadcasts a year, serving up to 160,000 people through ticketed events, education and community engagement activities, and concerts in schools and community centers throughout the region. Recently appointed 12th Music Director Ward Stare joins the ranks of former notable RPO music directors, including Eugene Goossens, José Iturbi, Erich Leinsdorf, David Zinman and Conductor Laureate Christopher Seaman. Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik has earned a national reputation for excellence in pops programming during his 23-year tenure with the RPO. With Michael Butterman as Principal Conductor for Education and Community Engagement (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair), the RPO reaches more than 22,000 children through its specific programs for school-aged children


Media please note:  Additional photos are available, and interviews and photo/footage opportunities can be arranged.