Finalists from the Musical Merit Foundation Awards program.
  • Finalists from the Musical Merit Foundation Awards program.
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The lucrative Musical Merit Foundation of Greater San Diego held its 68th annual awards program on Sunday, June 1. The competition includes both instrumental and vocal disciplines.

The preceding Thursday was the preliminary round, out of which 33 moved on to the semifinals. From the semifinals, 12 were selected for awards. The 12 then performed for a panel of judges who ranked them from 1-12 to determine a competition finalist.

The 12 consisted of three sopranos, one mezzo-soprano, one baritone, two flautists, one violinist, one violist, two pianists, and one organist — that’s five vocalists and seven instrumentalists.

For the competition, instrumentalists can be up to 24-years-old and vocalists can be 32-years-old.

The panel of eight judges all had impressive resumes and were from all over the country. The breakdown of the judges by discipline was two vocalists, one pianist, one organist, one violinist, one clarinetist, one flautist, and one conductor.

The variety of music that the young artists performed was impressive.

Thank God none of the singers performed Mozart. I’m sure that they sang Mozart during the earlier rounds of the competition but he was absent from the awards program. Mozart’s operas are some of my favorites but I’ve grown weary of hearing young singers sing Mozart.

I may have mentioned this before, but Mozart didn’t write his vocal music for young singers, he wrote it for the best singers in the world at the time when he was composing. I know, I know, young singers need to sing Mozart but there are other options and we heard some of them on Sunday.

The vocalists sang Rossini, Bernstein, Handel, Korngold (!), Libby Larsen (?), and others.

The instrumentalists also spread it out. There was a healthy helping of Bach, a composer who intended to be didactic in some of his music, but we heard Reger, Bizet arranged by Franz Waxman, Dutilleux, Prokofiev (!), and Ian Clarke (?).

The concert performances were beautiful. I’m in no mood to give a review of the performances and neither would it be appropriate. I can say that The Musical Merit Foundation is doing great work in supporting young musicians.

The awards were as follows:

  • Jennifer Wu, soprano $3,000.
  • Andrea Fortier, viola $4,000
  • Kylena Parks, soprano $5,000
  • Christen Horne, soprano $6,000
  • Annelle Gregory, violin $6,000
  • Maria Guadalupe Paz Castillo, mezzo-soprano $6,000
  • Mark Teplitsky, flute $6,000
  • Vincent Young, piano $7,000
  • Thomas Mellan, organ $9,000
  • Carlos Aguilar, flute $9,000
  • Michael Blinco, baritone $9,000

The overall winner was pianist Adrian Lui. He received $12,000 and an expenses-paid scholarship to the Aspen Summer Music Festival.

In addition to the awards, all 33 semifinalists received $300 each.

The total amount of awards was $85,900. If we include the expense of the Aspen Festival, the total would be right around $90,000.

The Musical Merit Foundation of Greater San Diego is one of, if not the most, generous foundations of its type in the country.

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