Brook Speltz, a former La Cañada resident, 2005 La Cañada High School graduate and current student at The Julliard School in New York, was looking to get some exposure when he entered an instrumental music competition with the Houston Symphony.
He got exposure, alright. He won first place in the national competition, which hosted its semifinal and final rounds at Rice University in Texas on June 2 and 4.
From the very beginning of the competition, Speltz felt he was going to win the contest.
“Any competition you do, you have to go in there thinking you're going to win, that's really the best way,” said Speltz, a 24-year old cello player who won $5,000 and an all-expenses paid trip to Houston to play with the Houston Symphony on July 19.
It was Speltz’ second major competition, but his first in six years. He participated in a competition with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2005 as a senior at LCHS and came in third place.
“Once I was accepted I told myself, 'As long as I put the work in, good things will happen,' and they did,” Speltz said. “It's rare and nice to see your hard work pay off the way you want it to.”
It couldn’t hurt that both of Speltz’ parents are professional musicians. His father is a professional cellist and studio musician and his mother is a violinist in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the director of strings in LCHS’ music program. Speltz credits his family as having a great impact on the way he plays and for his success with music so far.
“I feel very lucky to have parents that I look up to, not only in a family way but someone — especially my father, who's one of the top cellists in L.A. — that I strive to emulate,” Speltz said. “How many sons can boast that?”
Speltz has done all he can to pay them back, giving them the chance to see him play with the Houston Symphony on July 19.
“It’s going to be a dream that I’ve never dreamt for myself,” said Dave Speltz, Brook’s father. “It’s going to be something; I am going to be enjoying it through him vicariously.”
Speltz first prepared for the three-round competition by submitting a 45-minute recording of a cello concerto that he’d composed. He was one of 12 semifinalists invited to Houston to prepare two original concertos. He was chosen by the judges as one of four finalists to play to an audience of approximately 500 people at Rice University on June 4.
Once the judges made their decision, they announced the winners in reverse order, from fourth to first. Speltz’ name came last.
“I felt lucky, I felt justified,” said Speltz, who practices for at least three hours a day. “It was gratifying to really see the work that I had done in the past few months pay off. I was up pretty high.”
Dave Speltz said the feeling he experienced when he heard that his son had won the competition was “pretty hard to beat.”
“As a professional cellist in the recording business and concert world, I realize how hard it is to win a competition with all the great competitors that’s out there these days,” Dave Speltz said. “As an instrumentalist, it’s much more clear to me what a nice challenge has been met.”
The most exciting part about it for Speltz‘ parents is knowing their son can use the win as a stepping stone into a professional music career.
“With something like this under his belt, it’s a ladder,” Dave Speltz said. “Sometimes it’s really difficult to get that first rung of the ladder.”
After coming into the competition just looking to get his name out there, Speltz has been inspired by the first-place finish.
“[The win] was an incredible relief because it gave me the confidence to take the next step to get to those international competitions,” Speltz said. “I thought, ‘If I can win this, let's see what else I can do.’”