Entertainment & Arts

L.A. Phil contest to play the Hollywood Bowl has its finalists, and they’re all female

Violinist Ray Chen plays with the Bamberg Symphony, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, during a rece
Violinist Ray Chen during a recent Center for the Art of Performance concert at UCLA.
(Reed Hutchinson)

The ladies took the lead Wednesday when the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced the three finalists for its “Play With Ray” competition and the chance to perform onstage with violinist Ray Chen at the Hollywood Bowl.

Out of more than 800 entries from 73 countries — submitted by amateurs ranging in age from 6 to 76 — all three finalists are female: Adriana Bec, 13, of San Antonio, Texas; Youngji Kim, 22, of Daegu, South Korea; and Laura Kukkonen, 17, of Helsinki.

I can’t remember how I chose to play the violin. Sometimes I think that it wasn’t my choice, it was just meant to be like that.
Laura Kukkonen, 17, of Helsinki, “Play with Ray” finalist

The finalists were selected by Chen and judges from the L.A. Phil. The violinists will be flown to L.A. to attend master classes and concerts, as well as to audition with Chen. The grand-prize winner will perform the first movement of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto alongside Chen at the Bowl on Aug. 8.


The finalists were evaluated on their skill, demonstrated in videos, as well as on written essays.

In her essay, Bec recalled playing violin at age 8 for a group of Romanian schoolchildren while visiting her grandmother’s hometown school.

“From the first note of Bach to the last note of Texan fiddling, the kids sat like wide-eyed statues,” she wrote. “I lifted my bow and was surrounded by cheering kids begging for autographs!”


Kim started playing violin at 4 and devoted herself to rigorous daily practice. She went on to win Korean competitions and once played with the Korean Symphony Orchestra.

Kukkonen fell in love with a toy piano at age 3, which spurred her nonmusical parents to enroll her in classes early.

“I remember going to listen to different instruments, but I can’t remember how I chose to play the violin,” she wrote in her essay. “Sometimes I think that it wasn’t my choice, it was just meant to be like that.”

The “Play With Ray” winner will be announced at the Bowl on the night of the concert, and the show will be streamed on YouTube and Facebook Live.

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