August 2007 Convention
Albuquerque, NM

High School Soloist Competition Finals

For the 2007 High School Soloist Competition finals, eight contestants along with pianist Linda Mark performed the required repertoire: Godard’s Waltz from Suite de Trois Morceaux; Ibert’s Concerto, mov 3; and newly composed Two Venezuelan Etudes for Solo Flute, by Marco Granados. The judges were John Barcellona, Philip Dikeman, Mary Kay Fink, Christina Jennings, and George Pope.

The atmosphere outside the ballroom was full of anticipation, excitement, and nervousness as each contestant made ready for what awaited them just inside the door. The venue, as usual, was acoustically dead, and that day quite warm. There was an audible sense of how hard the performers would have to work to project their music to the judges and audience. Everyone was leveled by this reality, yet these amazing young flutists rose stoically and beautifully to the occasion. The contestants played at the highest levels from beginning to end. The judges were rapt, consciously looking from the music to the performer for each of the eight contestants.

Stephanie Kwak

Stephanie Kwak

Winner Stephanie Kwak was the only performer who played the program memorized. Her performances were technically clean, musically convincing, and energetic, delivered with a strong, clear tone. Her stage presence was the most interesting and professional of all of the contestants, and her dynamics were fabulous. The fact that she is in the 9th grade both astounds and impresses.

Second place winner, Elizabeth Stern, was all dolce, leggiero, and pique, playing with grace and energy. Third place winner, Elizabeth Lu, presided with elegance and confidence. She had the most beautiful sound, very smooth and controlled. Both Elizabeths went through the thorny places in the repertoire with apparent ease. Katherine Standefer is another stand-out in the competition, playing with a great, clear, projecting tone and with wonderful stage presence. She took more liberties with the improvisational section of the etudes, using key slaps and other interpretive effects. She gave the most creative interpretation of the newly composed etudes by Granados, and Kwak gave the cleanest performance and received overall best performance by the judges. All of the flutists were worthy of the competion and deserve kudos for their hard work and fantastic playing.

Stage presence during the non-playing moments brought my biggest criticisms. The pacing in some cases was awkward. The need for rest between pieces is understandable, but several performers gave the impression of being unsure when they were too slow setting up music and getting on to the next piece. Another detractor was the overt and too frequent use of the water bottle. In some cases, it was the primary memory of the performance.

—Sandy Duff Norman