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Salute to Youth musicians amaze audience in Abravanel Hall

SALT LAKE CITY — Seven talented young musicians impressed the audience as they performed with the Utah Symphony at the 55th annual Salute to Youth concert Tuesday night.

The concert, sponsored by the Deseret News, gives up-and-coming musicians a chance to showcase their talent and perform with a professional orchestra. This year’s concert was conducted by the symphony’s associate conductor, Valdimir Kulenovic, and featured seven youths between the ages of 13 and 17.

The musicians performed works by Handel, Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven, providing the audience with dynamic and vibrant music.

Harpist Caroline Richards, 17, opened the concert performing Handel’s Concerto in B-flat, op. 4, No. 6. The melody was sweet and Richards mastered the harp with her intricate finger work and focused concentration, despite her worries about being the first on the program.

“Being chosen as the first feels like both an honor and a responsibility,” Richards said before the concert. “I hope to be able to set a good tone for the rest of the concert.”

And she did. Richards' beautiful melody paved the way for ensemble performers Rebecca Epperson, 17, and Maggie Ivory, 16. The two immaculately performed Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, taking the audience on a journey of delightful and passionate melodies. Both girls performed with control, enthusiasm and grace.

Epperson, on the viola, said countless hours of preparation with Ivory, violin, went into preparing for this night. The chance to perform Sinfonia Concertante has been a dream come true, Epperson said.

“I’ve been in love with the Sinfonia Concertante for years,” Epperson said. “It’s taken a lot of effort to make it sound just right. … I’m so glad that I get to perform this piece with Maggie.”

Violinist Karen Ferry, 14, followed the ensemble with Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, op. 28, a piece by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Ferry’s performance charmed the audience with a dramatic expression of captivating and demanding melodies. The symphony’s accompaniment was both thunderous and peaceful.

Thirteen-year-old pianist Sanne Christensen, the youngest of the performers, closed the first half of the performance with Chopin’s Concerto for Piano No. 2 in F Minor, op. 21. Christensen played with impressive control and command of the piano, making the complex and speedy finger work required for the piece look simple and easy.

Shenae Anderson, 16, opened the second half performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 6. on the violin. Anderson, who soloed with the Utah Symphony Salute to Youth program in 2008 and 2010, performed with confidence, leading the audience in a joyous melody that was complex, yet simple.

Following Anderson was marimba player Michael Marsden, 17. Marsden, who soloed with the symphony in 2011, closed the concert with an astute performance of Paul Creston’s Concertino for Marimba. Marsden gave a bold, dynamic performance filled with impressive and fine technique. His heartfelt rendition brought the audience to a grand applause.

"Tonight’s story is about the successful pursuit of artistic excellence made possible by patient parents, dedicated teachers and disciplined students," Deseret News editor Paul Edwards said. "That is a story worth telling year after year."

Amber Clayson has a bachelor's degree in communications from BYU and writes for the Church News and Mormon Times. She can be reached at aclayson@deseretnews.com.