Young Soloists to Take Center Stage


Jamie Franceschi goes to church twice each Sunday, so she can get more choir time in.

Sean Chen likes to draw and build model cars but makes time to practice the piano 1 1/2 hours a day.

Laurel Schwartz says her interests include traveling, photography and partying, but also gives music lessons to elementary students several days a week.

The three young soloists from Ventura County are among seven who will perform today and Saturday in the New West Symphony's Discovery Artists series, conducted by symphony music director Boris Brott.

Franceschi, a 23-year-old Thousand Oaks resident, began singing and dancing when she was 6.

In her first performance, she sang a song from the musical "Annie."

She was introduced to the opera world when she was 12, but she said it was not until she learned her first aria four years ago that she fell in love with classical singing.

But she isn't ruling any genre out.

"I want to be a singer, any kind of singer--jazz, popular or classical--as long as I can have the opportunity to sing," Franceschi said.

In fact, she goes to Mass twice every Sunday so she can sing in the choir at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Westlake Village.

Laurel, a 17-year-old Oak Park student, has played the piccolo for seven years.

She attributes years of going to New West Symphony concerts with giving her an appreciation for all types of music.

Three years ago she won a spot with the New West Youth Symphony, where she has held the first chair position for piccolo.

The Westlake High senior, who has also won honors in science and Spanish, plays the flute--she gives lessons to elementary school students--but likes the piccolo "because it's more of a novelty. No one else plays it."

Thirteen-year-old Sean, also of Oak Park, has been playing piano for seven years.

The Medea Creek Middle School eighth-grader has earned many honors and awards, including honors at the 2000 and 2001 Southern California Junior Bach Festivals.

"When he was just a toddler, he would go and sit and play with an old broken keyboard," Sean's father, Eric Chen, said.

Musical ability runs in the family, Eric Chen said. Eric's grandfather, Cheng-Tin Chen, 76, conducts an orchestra in Taiwan.

The Discovery Artists series, now in its eighth year, is an outgrowth of the Young Artists Competition of the former Ventura County Symphony. The symphony will open with the overture to "Russlan and Ludmilla" by Mikhail Glinka and will end with the New West Youth Symphony All Stars, selected members of the Youth Symphony Orchestra, performing "The Great Gate of Kiev" from "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Modeste Mussorgsky.

During the performances, Sean will play Ravel's Piano Concerto in G. Soprano Franceschi will sing "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's "La Rondine" and "O, mio babbino caro" from Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi." Laurel will play Vivaldi's Piccolo Concerto in C.

Other featured soloists include 13-year-old pianist Sherman Ng of Westlake Village, 21-year-old pianist Karine Poghosyan of Northridge, 13-year-old pianist Katrina Bobbs of Granada Hills and 17-year-old clarinetist Richard Stone of Woodland Hills.

The performances kick off a weeklong educational program, highlighted by eight Symphonic Adventures concerts in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard for county schoolchildren.


The concerts will take place at 7:30 p.m. today at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, 800 Hobson Way, and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza's Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. Tickets are priced from $8 to $19 at both venues and are available by phone today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at (800) New-West and at

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