PORT ANGELES — With a little-known piece from a female composer, Lauren Waldron wowed the judges.
Waldron, 18, took first prize in the 32nd annual Nico Snel Young Artist Competition, a North Olympic Peninsula-wide contest held Saturday.
In her bright crimson lace dress, the performer stepped to the front of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and raised her viola. Then, with pianist Kristin Quigley-Brye accompanying her, she unleashed the first movement of the Violin Sonata by Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979).
Waldron’s was “a masterful presence, right from the beginning,” said judge Linda Dowdell when it was over.
“It was a beautiful balance,” she added of the interplay between Waldron and Quigley-Brye.
Waldron, a Port Angeles High School senior, won $500 in cash, along with two rounds of applause from the audience.
To her, Clarke’s fierce sonata was a way for the woman in a field of male composers to say: “I’m here. I’m a person, too.”
Saturday’s competition, newly named after Snel, the late conductor of the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra, had two divisions: the senior event, open to participants up to age 22, and the junior for competitors up to age 14.
Tirzah Small, 21, traveled from Brinnon to play Otar Gordeli’s Concerto for Flute; she won the $250 second-place prize.
Small, the one senior contestant from Jefferson County, is working on preliminary college courses online and plans to enroll in Indiana University’s online program to earn a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
Pianist Emma Weller, 15, of Port Angeles won the $200 third prize — plus high praise for her thunderstorm of a performance of Aram Khachaturian’s “Toccata.”
“You really made me love this piece,” said judge Denise Dillenbeck. “The sound was just gorgeous.”
Two more from Port Angeles — horn player Clarisse Finman, who performed Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Morceau de Concert,” and flutist Tana Hiigel, with Louis Ganne’s “Andante et Scherzo” — received honorable mentions in the senior event.
In the junior competition, violinist Aliyah Cassidy Yearian, 12, of Port Townsend took home the $250 first prize, while pianist Luke Gavin, a Port Angeles eighth-grader, won the $125 second prize, and violinist Yau Fu, a sixth-grader at Franklin Elementary in Port Angeles, won the $75 third prize.
The competition, open to the public, ran from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and included four judges: Dillenbeck, Dowdell, Port Angeles Symphony principal oboist Anne Krabill and symphony music director and conductor Jonathan Pasternack.
The field of competitors was more varied than in recent years: Besides four pianists, four violinists, two flutists and Waldron the violist, there were Finman the hornist and one vocalist. She’s Sienna Porter, a Port Angeles High School senior who sang two songs, Franz Schubert’s “Gretchen am Spinnrad” in German and Carl Nielsen’s “Aebleblomst” in Danish.
Applications for the January 2019 Nico Snel Young Artist Competition will be available this fall.
For more information, see www.PortAngeles Symphony.org or call the symphony office at 360-457-5579.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.