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Music scholarship winners highlight vocal, instrumental talent


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Baritone singer Brian Pierson rushed from a facility where he helps spotlight other performers to a venue where he himself stole a bit of limelight.

But he seemed genuinely surprised Saturday to be named among the top winners in the 50-person Brown Music Scholarship Competition at Columbus’ First Christian Church.

He earned first place in the Anna Newell Brown Awards for Vocal Excellence and a $3,500 scholarship. Pianist Erica Sun finished first in the Betty F. Brown Awards for Instrumental Excellence and also received a $3,500 scholarship.

Pierson laughed about the fact that he was so nervous he said his right hand visibly spasmed during his performance of Harry Burley’s spiritual “Deep River” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “O Isis und Osiris” from “The Magic Flute.” This unfolded all after he hurried from his job as a technician at the local Judson Erne Auditorium at Columbus North High School, where he is a senior.

“Part of the nerves was due to my performance here last year,” he said, describing it as hardly his best. “Actually, I’m still not really sure what just happened.”

Sun, a senior at Columbus East High School, thought the exuberance of her Sergei Rachmaninoff piece, “Polka de W.R.,” helped allow her joy to flow over the piano keys.

“It allowed me a lot of freedom for interpretation,” Sun said. “So I was really able to express emotion easily.”

Voice instructor and veteran Columbus vocalist Camilla Gehring worked with three of the top four senior vocalists, including Pierson, whom college music school judges selected as best.

“I certainly can’t take credit for their talent,” Gehring said. “Maybe just for a little of the nurturing and development.”

In the senior vocal competition, Logan Rivera placed second, winning a $1,500 scholarship, and Lauren Thompson placed third, winning a $1,000 scholarship. Jonathan Bostelman earned a fourth-place scholarship of $500.

Also in the senior instrumental competition, Megan Pan placed second playing the flute and won a $1,500 scholarship; and Yoko Yato won a third-place scholarship of $1,000 for her performance on French horn.

Seven seniors competed in the instrumental competition, and eight seniors participated in the vocal competition.

In the sophomore and junior competitions, 22 instrumentalists and 11 vocalists competed for scholarships for music lessons or music camps. Underclassmen winners were: Instrumentalists Kelly Langevin, piano; Michael Freed, violin; David Rich, B-flat trumpet; Devan Rhoades, alto saxophone; Iori Kato, alto saxophone; and Jacob Bricker, B-flat clarinet. Langevin and Freed received $600 awards; Rich and Rhoades earned $500 awards; and Kato and Bricker received $400 awards.

Among underclassmen vocalists, receiving a $600 award was Abigail Beerwart; receiving $540 awards were Tayler Seymour and Langevin; and $440 awards were presented to Katherine Gemberling, Caroline Ammon and Luke Major.

Instrumental judges for this event were Susan Chan, adjunct faculty at the University of Indianapolis and violist of New Century String Quartet; Ray Kilburn, associate professor of music, piano at Ball State University; and Shawn Goodman, adjunct instructor of clarinet at Butler University School of Music and conductor and president of Symphonic Youth Orchestra of Greater Indianapolis.

Vocal judges were Kathleen Hacker, professor of music and director of vocal studies at the University of Indianapolis; Thomas Studebaker, assistant professor of voice at Butler University and Eric Stark, director of choral activities and professor of music at Butler University.

Stark, a Columbus native, saluted the day’s performers.

“As a hometown boy, it makes me very proud to see such great music going on here,” Stark said.

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