August 2015 Convention
Washington, D.C.

Young Artist Competition Semifinals

Despite having been awake far into Thursday night, reuniting with old friends and making new ones, at 8:40 Friday morning, I strode into the room for a Young Artist Competition judges’ meeting with the coordinator, Jeremy Benson. Having been asked to judge this competition was one of the great honors of my professional life so far, and I was very excited.

Rama Kumaran, 2016 first prize winner.

photo by Brian Covington

The contestants—Rama Kumaran, Martha Long, Elizabeth Lu, Mira Magrill, Kathleen Winters, and Jennifer Zhou—did not disappoint. All played beautifully prepared programs that, as my colleague Jennifer Parker-Harley expressed, left no doubt that any one of them knew their way around the flute.

Special recognition goes to Jeremy Benson, the competition coordinator, who with his committee picked a program that was as challenging stylistically as it was technically: the first two movements of Telemann’s F Minor sonata for flute and continuo, Luigi Cortese’s Introduzione e Allegro, and the newly commissioned work, Michael Fiday’s Jim and John. This program was exceptionally listenable, even six times in a row, and my colleagues on the jury and I were extremely taken with the new work. In my opinion, Jim and John is a standout work among NFA commissions and deserves to be part of every serious flutist’s repertoire far into the future.

After all was said and done, Kumaran, Long, and Magrill emerged as finalists. However, it was clear that all six of these young players have extremely bright careers ahead of them. As a matter of fact, I urge convention-goers to attend this concert. Year after year, the Young Artist Competition semifinalists are some of the most polished, gutsy, determined performers of the whole convention, and this year was no exception. Kudos to these six, their peers in the quarterfinals, and everyone who submitted recordings. I look forward to hearing next year’s contestants.

Jeremy Benson with the six Young Artist Competition semifinalists.

photo by Brian Covington

—Timothy Hagen