Pianist, 14, wins symphony contest

Teen to perform with Juneau Symphony during winter concert

Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2001

Fourteen-year-old pianist Daniel Wallen Gruenberg won the Juneau Symphony's 2001 Youth Concerto Competition held Sunday at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Gruenberg, who played the 13-minute first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17, will perform it with the Juneau Symphony at its winter concert next season. Gruenberg, an eighth-grader at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, was accompanied by Mary Watson, his piano instructor.

"I was a bit nervous, but the nervousness is before you get up there," Gruenberg said of the event, his first competition. "And when you're up there, you lose yourself in the music."

The competition "lets people like me - and it helps me - to put myself forward, to take the risk, either win or lose," he said.

Symphony administrator Jetta Whittaker said, "It's been several years since we've had a pianist win the competition, so we're excited about accompanying him."

Also competing Sunday were two 10-year-old violinists in the fourth grade. Andrew Sigler played the first movement of Seitz's Concerto No. 5, and Franz Felkl played the third movement of Vivaldi's Concerto in A minor. Both are violin students of Guo Hua Xia and were accompanied by pianist Sue Kazama.

"They did very, very well," Xia said. "The main thing is training them to meet the challenge."

Sigler has studied with Xia for three years, and Felkl for four-and-a-half years.

"They are very young. When they grow up they can do something very easily because they have this experience," Xia said.

"Each player played wonderfully," said Juneau Symphony Music Director Kyle Wiley Pickett, who was one of the judges. "It was difficult to select just one winner. Juneau should be very proud of its music students, and music teachers as well."

Also judging the competition were Ken Leghorn, a member of the symphony's first violin section, and Elizabeth Evans, a longtime piano teacher in Juneau.

The student competition has been held for more than 10 years, Whittaker said.

"It's such a thrill to play with the orchestra," Watson said. "And it's just great for the kids to do that. It changes them once it's done. It's a confidence boost."

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