On Monday, the winner of a concerto competition for the San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestra will take the stage for her first solo with an orchestra.
“This year marks the first-ever Student Concerto Competition for members of the SJS Youth Orchestra,” said Thomas Heuser, music director and conductor for the San Juan Symphony. “Roughly 10 students submitted application videos as part of this year’s competition, and a panel of judges watched the videos in order to choose the winner.”
The choice of Durango High School freshman Rebecca Bowers, 15, wasn’t easy, he said.
“The video performances were impressive and demonstrated yet again the dedication and talent of these young musicians,” Heuser said. “Rebecca was selected as this year’s winner for the clarity and confidence of her performance.”
Rebecca, the daughter of Steve Bowers and Wendy Grant, began playing the violin when she was 4 and has played with local youth orchestras since she was 11. In addition to playing with the Durango High School Orchestra, she has played in the San Juan Symphony’s Side-by-Side concerts for three years and in the Bach Festival for several years. She enjoys being part of the Durango Chamber Music Academy each summer.
Reaching the level to make her solo debut has required a lot of practice.
“I get up every day at 6 in the morning, which I’ve done since the fifth grade, and practice while my mind is clear and focused,” Rebecca said. “After school, I have so many activities, like sports and lessons, so it’s the best way to make sure I get it done. Consistency is important.”
She practices seven days a week, an hour a day from Monday through Friday and an hour and a half to two hours a day on weekends. After working with several teachers, she has found a home at Tenille’s Violin House with San Juan Symphony violinist Tenille Taylor in Farmington.
“My mom takes me, and it is a time commitment,” Rebecca said. “But Tenille really understands what it’s like performing, she has so much experience. She’s also a problem-solver, so when I have a problem, we solve it together.”
Rebecca will play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, which was her audition piece.
“I was working on the Mozart, and it was ready to be performed when it was time to audition,” she said. “Once I won, ‘Mr. U’ (Youth Symphony Conductor Lech Usinowicz) handed the music out to the rest of the orchestra, and they learned it.”
Usinowicz and Heuser have both worked with Rebecca and the orchestra because it takes a higher level of musicianship for a performance like this to gel.
As much as Rebecca loves music, she doesn’t plan to make a career of it.
“I will continue playing throughout my life, in college and my future,” she said. “But it’s probably not the only thing I will do in my life.”
Rebecca enjoys math and science but isn’t focusing on any particular career at this point. When she is not playing the violin, she enjoys running, skiing, playing tennis and playing with her dog, Coco.
When she won the concerto competition, she beat out musicians from Animas High School, students who are home-schooled and friends she plays with in the DHS Orchestra.
That hasn’t been awkward, she said.
“It’s really just fun,” Rebecca said.