Students fare well in Neale-Silva competition

Laura Streyle

While eating your 12:30 p.m. lunch Sunday, April 26, be sure to tune into Wisconsin Public Radio for the live performances of five Lawrence Conservatory students who recently took top honors at the prestigious Neale-Silva Young Artists’ Competition.
Started by the late University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Eduardo Neale-Silva, the Wisconsin Public Radio’s Neale-Silva Young Artists’ Competition was established to recognize young Wisconsin performers of classical music who demonstrate an exceptionally high level of artistry.
Before their spring break could officially begin, nine Lawrence students made their way down to UW-Madison to compete in the final round of the 14th annual Neale-Silva Competition. The musicians were vying for the opportunity to be broadcast live on the NPR News and Classical Music Network of WPR. A $400 award for each winning performer was an additional incentive for the musicians.
Demonstrating the “high level of artistry” that Neale-Silva wished to promote, a percussion trio comprised of Felicia Behm, David Ranscht and Stacey Stoltz, along with bass-baritone Derrell Acon and pianist Leonard Hayes shared top honors at the competition. In addition to the three winners, Lawrence also had two other finalists: pianist Dario LaPoma and the piano trio of Laura Hauer, Anna Henke and Megan Karls.
The winning performers will share their talent April 26 from the Wisconsin Union Theater in Madison and musicality with a statewide audience.
Acon acknowledged his excitement for the April 26 performance when he said, “It’s so cool that I’ll be delivering something to so many people that I will never be able to hear myself; it’s such a weirdly selfless feeling of communication.”
A student of Patrice Michaels, Acon will be singing four pieces during the broadcasted concert: “Il lacerato spirito” by Giuseppe Verdi, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Howard Swanson, “All the Little Horses” by Aaron Copland, and “Amiamo” by Gaetano Donizetti.
From the studio of Catherine Kautsky, Hayes will play “Piano Sonata in E-flat Major Op. 7, Mvmt. I” by Ludwig Von Beethoven, and “Vingt Regards sur l’ Enfant Jesus: XIII. Noel” by Olivier Messiaen. He will also accompany friend and fellow musician Acon in his vocal performance.
Hayes stated, “I want to thank Catherine Kautsky for encouraging me to compete for Neale-Silva. I hope that my performance … will communicate, to the radio listeners, what the music is about.”
Ranscht, Stoltz and Behm, will perform Mark Ford’s “Stubernic,” along with an arrangement of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” arranged by Behm. The three students hail from the studio of Dane Richeson.