Baylor student musicians compete in annual concerto competition at McCrary School of Music

Fjoralba Zguro, winnner of the Baylor concerto competition, practices the piano before her performance. Brittney Matthews | Multimedia Journalist

By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer

Korçë, Albania junior Fjoralba Zguro won the concerto music competition this year with the piece “Piano Concerto in G major,” composed by Maurice Ravel. As the winner, Zguro will perform her concerto with the Baylor Symphony Orchestra next fall.

Eight finalists performed Saturday in the final round of McCrary School of Music’s annual concerto competition in Jones Hall.

Baylor concerto competition coordinator Dr. Kent Eshelman estimated that about 35 students applied to be a part of the concerto before cuts were made to eight finalists.

“It’s a common thing for a school of music to have their own concerto competition,” Eshelman said. “It’s a great experience for the students preparing for an entire concerto, which is a big deal. They range in length from 16 to 45 minutes long.”

In order to prepare for such a competition, participants dedicate countless months to the specific concerto they choose to play.

Tallin, Estonia-graduate student Egle Uljas has a master’s in piano performance and is working toward a Baylor Advanced Performer’s Certificate. The pianist said she began working on her piece a year ago in preparation to be a finalist in the concerto.

Uljas said she has been through enough concertos and competitions as a musician to know the true purpose behind why she trains and studies music at all.

“I just love to play. It’s not about the winning, it’s about the practice. You have to practice at least five hours a day,” Uljas said. “I actually love to be in that moment [of the competition] and play with my nerves. I’m getting to play pieces that I really love.”

Bemidji, Minn., senior Sarah Hamrin is a finalist violinist who participated in the competition. She said she put hours of practice into her craft every day leading up to the competition.

“I’ve tried for [the concerto competition] every year, and this is the first year that I’ve made it to finals,” Hamrin said. “Professional musicians that have won some major competitions have told me that it took billions of competitions where they didn’t win anything to finally start winning.”

A panel of judges with backgrounds ranging from teaching music at other universities to former members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra traveled from across Texas to judge the concerto.

“They’re listening for the level of artistry, and how well the student makes the music come to life and lose the audience,” Eshelman said.

Eshelman said judges additionally looked for appropriate stage presence, the level at which they were able to work well with their accompanying pianist, expressiveness and individuality as a soloist.

The competition was open to any of Baylor’s woodwind, string, percussion, bass and keyboard instrumentalists. The musicians could enter in one of the brass, strings and harp, piano and organ, woodwinds or percussion divisions.

Once entered in one of these areas, applicants went through a preliminary round and were judged by multiple professors in each of the instrumental areas.

Contestants in the concerto included Wolfgang Draving on the oboe, violinist Darren Carter, bassoonist Kody Harrington, Joseph Tkach on trumpet, pianist Fjoralba Zguro, Chase Windmueller on the euphonium and violist Sarah Hamrin.