Baylor musicians to perform at Carnegie Hall in May

Stafford, Pa. senior Maria Dell'Orefice practices piano in the McCrary Music Building. She is one of the Baylor Music Competition Winners. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Editor

By Julia Vergara | Staff Writer

After competing in the Baylor School of Music’s third annual Semper Pro Musica Solo and Chamber Music Competition, 18 students have won the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City in May.

The six solo competition winners, as well as four chamber groups, will be in New York City from May 23-26, and the students will perform at 8 p.m. May 24 in the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.

Gary Mortenson, dean of the Baylor School of Music, said the competition consisted of two rounds. About one in every three students in the school — 125 students— went through the first round, which took place in the fall semester. For the second round, the competition was narrowed down to about 30 musicians.

“It is really competitive,” Mortenson said. “But really good competitions need to be that way.”

Mortenson said in the first round, students were judged internally by faculty. In the second round, the school brought in five external judges.

The judges were Annie Burridge, general director and CEO of the Austin Opera; Thomas Burritt, professor of percussion at the University of Texas; Tali Morgulis, associate professor of piano at the University of Houston; Brendan Townsend, music director of the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra; and Charles Villarrubia, associate professor of tuba, euphonium and brass chamber music.

When the winners were announced Feb. 11 in Roxy Grove Hall, Wayne, Pa., junior Maria Dell’Orefice said her name was called first and she was so excited that she heard nothing else afterward.

Dell’Orefice won the Semper Pro Musica Solo Competition on piano, and had been practicing her two pieces since the beginning of the fall semester.

“These competitions — It’s high stakes and you know that a lot of these musicians are really, really good,” Dell’Orefice said. “It gets your adrenaline going. It gives you something to look forward to.”

Austin master’s student Julia Powers said when she found out she won the Semper Pro Musica Solo Competition for singing, she couldn’t help but tear up a little bit. Powers said she had been working on her submission for about a year.

“I didn’t really see it as a possibility,” Powers said. “It’s one of those things where you don’t want to let yourself get your hopes too high. I was very surprised — in a good way — to see that I had won.”

Both Dell’Orefice and Powers said they had competed in past Semper Pro Musica Solo and Chamber Music Competitions but did not make it to Carnegie Hall.

Leander sophomore Joey Tkach said he competed in last year’s competition as a finalist but was not selected to perform at Carnegie Hall. However, this year he won the Semper Pro Musica Solo Competition for trumpet and will be traveling to New York City with the rest of the competition winners.

“When you get so close to accomplishing a goal, only to fall short at the last moment, it can be devastating,” Tkach said. “However, looking back on that moment, I am incredibly thankful for what it taught me. I learned that failure can be our best teacher, and I believe that this is true not just in music, but in many other aspects of life.”

Dell’Orefice said being able to perform in Carnegie Hall is a huge opportunity for any musician and Mortenson said it is one of the world’s most preeminent spaces to perform in.

“The School of Music at Baylor is really the only university in the United States that offers undergraduates and master’s students the opportunity to give a Carnegie Hall debut,” Mortenson said. “So this is unique to Baylor and we want to keep it going.”

According to Mortenson, the annual Semper Pro Musica Solo and Chamber Music Competition benefits students because it promotes dedication and focus, which students would not be able to win the competition without.

“If you want to be a professional musician and make your living someday — either as a high-quality educator or as a living, breathing professional musician that performs — focus and dedication are two preeminent things. You can never start early enough gaining skills in those areas,” Mortenson said.