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Friday February 23, 2001

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Four UA student award winners to perform this weekend

Headline Photo

Harp performance graduate student Jaymee Schmuck poses with her harp which she began playing at the age of eight. Schmuck, one of the five winners of the President's Competition, will perform with three other winners this weekend.

By Graig Uhlin

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Playing at top form for a musician is a labor of love for violinist Matus Telgarsky - with extra emphasis on the labor part.

"In general, I practice every day without question. The amount I practice is usually between six and 11 hours every day," said Telgarsky, one of five student winners of the annual President's Competition.

But the violin performance sophomore said the grueling practice schedule is all for naught if the musician does not love what he or she is doing.

"I think the only way to really give a good performance for everyone is to really love every note you play. That's the only way to play perfectly," he said. "In the hour before (a performance), I remind myself how much joy it brings."

Telgarsky joins three of the other winners - Tomoko Uchino, a piano performance graduate student, and harp performance graduate students Jaymee Schmuck and Fan Fen Tai - in a concert this weekend, accompanied by the University of Arizona Symphony Orchestra.

For a solo performer, playing with an orchestra is an "honor," Schmuck said, an honor for which the President's Competition was established.

"This is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time," Schmuck said. "I have always wanted to play with an orchestra."

The President's Competition was established more than 20 years ago to give music students this opportunity, said Joe Swinson, assistant to the director of the School of Music and Dance. It has been only in the last two years, he added, that there has been a monetary component to the award - each winner receives $500.

In the competition, music students - both undergraduate and graduate - compete in one of four instrumental categories - strings, winds and percussion, voice and piano. After passing through a preliminary round, the qualifiers perform for a panel of non-university affliated judges which then, in turn, select the winners.

Although it might seem unfair, undergraduates are at no disadvantage when competing with the older, more expereienced graduate students, said Thomas Cockrell, the director of orchestral studies. He said that mastering a musical instrument is not something that necessarily gets better with age.

"(Musical ability) doesn't always work in a linear fashion than that," he said.

Telgarksy, one of the undergraduate winners, agreed, saying this kind of cutthroat competition reflects the real-world job market for musicians.

"I think it is good that we compete against (graduate students) because when we get into the real world, we have to compete against people even 30 years older," he said.

Telgarsky said the instrument itself played a bigger role in the selection of winners, as some would have more appeal to the judges.

"They like certain instruments more than other ones. No matter how objective the judges try to be, there always is the human element in it," he said. "It could be the best clarinetest in the world and a decent pianist and the pianist will win."

While Schmuck conceded that "certain instruments (including hers, the harp) don't have a lot of pieces that are written for them that are particulary showy," that factor did not prevent her win.

Each winner will perform the piece with which they competed, which Cockrell said "doesn't make for a thematically unified concert but it's a great smorgasbord of different styles and taste."

While the pieces themselves span different genres and historical periods, the performers all share a similar approach to playing for an audience.

"When you play for an audience, the most important thing is technique, but you want to go beyond that and reach them and bring them into the world of performance that you are creating," Schmuck said. "That is most fun part of it - that is what hooks a lot of performers. It's like a suspended reality when you are up on stage."