Two extremely talented young artists, soprano Juhye Kim and soprano saxophonist Christopher Bartz, who have already made a substantial mark in the music world, added a jewel to their respective crowns by taking top honors in the Burbank Philharmonic Orchestra and Hennings-Fischer Foundation’s 11th annual Young Artists’ Competition Finals held at Forest Lawn’s Hall of Liberty this past Saturday evening.
Established in 2001, the Hennings-Fischer Foundation perpetuates the goals of musical tradition and excellence, and is the legacy of violinist and teacher Noumi Fischer and his wife, fellow violinist and teacher, Audrey Hennings Fischer.
Awarded top vocalist honors, Kim is a native of South Korea who graduated from Seoul National University where she earned a BM in vocal arts. She performed in the Seoul City Opera, singing some of the most demanding roles such as Violetta in “La Traviata” and Donna Anna in “Don Giovanni.” She has also performed as Lauretta in “Gianni Schichi” with the USC Thornton Opera, and has appeared with numerous orchestras and choral societies as a featured soloist.
Bartz, who is a native of St. Louis, Mo., began playing saxophone when he was in fifth grade. By the time he graduated from middle school his dedicated practice adherence had seen him reach levels of excellence far beyond saxophonists of his age. He earned first-chair spots in both the Missouri All-State Concert Band and the All-State Jazz Band and was invited to be a member of the St. Louis Symphony while still in high school. “For any high school kid, or college student for that matter, to play with a major symphony is extraordinary,” said his high school band director, Jason Rekittke, when the invitation was offered. “Chris playing with the St. Louis Symphony can be compared to a high school athlete being asked to play (with) the St. Louis Cardinals.”
Kim and Bartz bettered a field of 50 young performers that had been whittled down to seven finalists that included cellist Jeffrey Lin, violinist Ju Young and sopranos Shoushik Barsoumian, Parvathi Subbiah and Anna Belaya, who also performed during Saturday evening’s competition.
Beginning their 22nd year, the Burbank Philharmonic Orchestra is dedicated to bringing world-class music to the Southern California community and has performed to more than 115,000 attendees over the past two decades. Originally founded as the Burbank Chamber Orchestra in 1991, under the direction of Maestro Steven Kerstein who serves as the orchestra’s conductor and music director, 2002 saw the orchestra’s name officially changed to the Burbank Philharmonic Orchestra, the only orchestra in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys that provides professional, high-quality concerts at no charge.
Judges who faced a daunting charge in selecting winners at Saturday’s competition were Fung Ho, the conductor of the Olympia Philharmonic, Barry Brisk, who serves as the conductor of the Beach Cities Symphony, and Patricia Shanks who is an opera coach.
Among those who make the work of the Burbank Phil possible are the organization’s chairwoman and president emeritus, Lynda Wilner, who was recently named as the chair of the Burbank Cultural Arts Commission, President Judith Daniels, and board members Tom Lang, Bob Diller, Larry Lazar, Judy Gragg, Lisa Perry, Mari Angela Pititto, Gary Reissman and Aaron Petersen.
Included in the Burbank Phil’s 2012 season will be a Family Concert performance featuring soprano Jacquelynne Fontaine on May 5 at Forest Lawn’s Hall of Liberty and their annual July 4th appearance at the Starlight Bowl. For more information of the Burbank Philharmonic Orchestra, visit www.burbankphilharmonic.org.