Sound floods Jones Hall

The hills are alive with the sound of music as eight Baylor students took on the concerto musical competition on Saturday in Jones Concert Hall. Although the judges said it was hard to make a decision because all of the students played excellently, in the end, Brian Bires took home the prize. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

Eight Baylor students in the music department competed in the Baylor Concerto Competion on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at Jones Concert Hall. There were two separate sessions, and three students performed in the morning, the rest in the afternoon. Friendswood senior, Brian Bires, won.

“We listened to how well they prepared, whether they understand the composition, whether they understand the style of playing for that particular piece. For instance, how to play a Prokofiev concerto. We judge them from that standpoint,” Harry Elzinga, professor emeritus of music history said.

Elzinga taught at Baylor from 1985 to 2003. He was also a director of graduate school in his last year. He was asked to be an adjudicator of this musical competition three years ago, but this was his last year doing it because he is moving to Colorado.

Elzinga said he also judges them from their technical abilities, the sound of the instruments, how they shaped the music and their intonation and pitch. He said the most important factor the adjudicators were looking for was whether the students understand compositions or not.

One of the competitors, Albuquerque, N.M., senior Carl Feaster,, performed a chapter of Prokofiev on piano with strong emotions.

“I attended the Baylor Concerto competition because it is really one of the most prestigious competitions offered by the music school,” Feaster said. “It’s a really good opportunity to test your metal against all these other fantastic musicians.”

He said he started to prepare during last spring semester, and he played this chapter during his final exam. He practiced a lot at home and took it to his lesson with his teacher and other teachers to get critical feedback.

“It’s incredible how when you’re performing something like Prokofiev, your emotions just start racing. It’s kind of like running, you have a really high heart rate and a lot of stuff going on,” Feaster said. “You don’t really realize how hard you’re working and how invested you are emotionally until after you’re done. I walked off-stage and just had to shake it all off because I was bouncing out of my skin.”

Another performer, Houston senior Christopher Boulais, also played trumpet vividly in the second session. This is his last semester because he will graduate in May.

When he was asked about the time he spent on preparation for this competition, he said it varies from person to person.

“The piece I performed, the Haydn trumpet concerto, is pretty standard within trumpet repertoire. There are a lot of auditions you take, that the first movement of the Haydn will appear. I am completing my undergraduate degree now, and I am taking auditions for graduate school here this semester, and I think all four of them require the Haydn. So for me, this is the piece I have been working on for many years,” Boulais said.

Boulais also said that although he still tends to get a bit anxious, it’s nothing like the nervousness he had as a child. Now, he has mechanisms to help him with his nervousness.

“I have a Rubix cube with me, so whenever I was in the warmup room, I was just messing around with that and trying to keep my mind off the performance,” Boulais said.

Although it was difficult for the judges to make the decision, Brian Bires, who performed with his viola in the afternoon, won. Bires looked shocked when he heard the decision and said he was grateful for everyone there with him.

“There were so many good performances. It’s really tough with all these different instruments and sounds, needing to come up with a decision,” Elzinga said. “There were no performances that I thought were not up to standard. They all were well-prepared.”