Key to Change Solo String Festival Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall

April 6, 2024

Application Deadline: March 18, 2024 - $25 application fee

ABOUT

Key to Change presents its annual Solo String Festival for middle and high school violin and viola students who live and attend school in South King County.

Students will perform and compete for prizes and participate in masterclasses and group classes with guest artist instructors. Additionally, students will receive lunch, have an opportunity to watch other participants perform, and attend the awards ceremony at the conclusion of the festival.

ELIGIBILITY

The following groups of students are eligible to participate in the Solo String Festival:

  • Students participating in their respective school orchestra programs, local youth symphony orchestras, and/or taking private lessons with a studio teacher in South King County are all eligible.
  • Students who do not have a private lesson teacher are also encouraged to enter the Solo String Festival.
  • Students living in South King County who do not participate in any of the aforementioned are also eligible.
  • All students who are currently enrolled in Key to Change studio are also eligible to participate in the Solo String Festival.

South King County is defined as: Auburn, Black Diamond, Burien, Covington, Des Moines, Federal Way, Enumclaw, Kent, Maple Valley, Muckleshoot Reserve, Normandy Park, Rainier Beach, Renton, SeaTac, Skyway, Tukwila, and White Center.

Note: Students who are also enrolled in the MY Southeast Orchestra program sponsored by the Seattle Youth Symphony, Cleveland and Franklin High Schools are also eligible.

  • Participants must live, attend school, and study their instrument in South King County. All students studying at Key to Change are eligible to participate. Students who do not study with a private instructor, but meet the aforementioned requirements are eligible. Students studying with instructors who live or teach outside of South King County are not eligible to participate. 
  • Participants must provide piano music, if using a Key to Change piano accompanist.
  • Participants may compete on one instrument only.
  • Participants may compete in one division only, except for Young Artist Academy students, who may participate in both the concerto competition and Jessie Montgomery Division.
  • Participants must provide four copies of their music for the adjudicators. Music must be placed in a three-ring binder (copied double sided) and hole punched. 
  • Participants must introduce their performance to the adjudicator and audience. Students should introduce themselves and their accompanist, name of school, title, and composer of the ensemble (and, if appropriate, the movements being performed). 
  • Participants will be cut off if the allotted time is exceeded.
  • Participants will receive written feedback from the adjudicator.
  • Participants must check in one hour prior to their performance. 
  • The adjudicator’s decision is final and may not be appealed. 
  • Winners are required to participate in the radio broadcast and select events scheduled by Key to Change. Failure to participate in such events will result in disqualification and loss of scholarship.

Am I eligible to participate in the Solo String Festival?

Participants must live, attend school, and study their instrument in South King County. All students regardless of home address studying at Key to Change are also eligible to participate. Students studying with lesson instructors outside of South King County are not eligible to participate.

What cities are included in South King County?

Auburn, Black Diamond, Burien, Covington, Des Moines, Enumclaw, Federal Way, Kent, Maple Valley, Muckleshoot Reserve, Normandy Park, Renton, SeaTac, Skyway, Tukwila, and White Center 

What if I have been exposed to COVID, or I am unable to travel to the venue? Can I still participate? 

For families with COVID-19 concerns or if they are unable to travel to the designated venue, Key to Change will allow their performance to be uploaded onto YouTube. Please contact Key to Change for the deadline for YouTube submissions.

Where will I go to perform?

Students will report to Benaroya Hall. Address: 200 University St, Seattle, WA 98101

Do I need to be present for the entire weekend to be able to participate?

No. Students will be notified one week prior to the festival what date and time they will be performing. Students must arrive 1 hour prior to their performance and will be escorted to a room to tune and warm up prior to their performance. Various masterclasses will be offered as part of the festival which students can participate in throughout the two days.

How does the judging work?

Students will perform for three judges and receive live feedback immediately after their performance. Winners will be announced Sunday, April 16th at the awards ceremony. 

Can my family come?

Yes. Families as well as friends are welcome to attend.

Does my music have to be memorized?

One piece must be memorized if competing in the competitive divisions (see divisions for more information). Music does not need to be memorized if entering the non-competitive division. 

What kinds of music qualify?

Competitors must present two contrasting pieces (example: one fast piece and one slow piece) in the competitive round. No scales are allowed. Any piece (orchestral, chamber music, etc.) or scales is allowed for the non-competitive division. 

Who can participate in the non-competitive division?

Any middle or high school student may participate for up to 5 minutes. Scales, etudes, short pieces, or orchestra music is permitted. Students may perform with music.

What COVID safety measures are in place?

In alignment with King County's most recent COVID-19 guidance, this event will be mask optional. While masks are no longer required, people who are immunocompromised, unvaccinated, or feel sick should wear masks to protect themselves and others when in indoor public spaces.

Please respect people’s choices to continue to wear a mask or not.


MASTERCLASSES

This year, students will have the opportunity to attend and perform in various masterclasses throughout the festival with guest artists. These guest artists will work with participants on repertoire, technique and other performance related matters. Students of all musical levels and backgrounds are expected to participate.

Guest artist masterclass instructors include:

Grant Donnellan, professor of violin at Western Washington University

Dr. Seth Parker Woods, cellist, professor at University of Southern California

SCHEDULE

A master schedule of student performances will be sent out one week before the festival begins.

Applicants must complete and submit the registration form no later than Monday, March 18, 2024 (11:59pm). Applicants must also complete the $25 application fee (scholarships are available for those students who require financial assistance).

Jessie Montgomery String Competitive Division

Grades: 6-12

Who: Students currently enrolled at Key to Change in Young Artist Academy, COMBO or private lesson programs.

Performance Time Limit: A total of up to 20 minutes

Repertoire Requirement: Competitors must perform at least three different musical works. Concertos, concertinos, sonatas, short pieces, or etudes are permitted. No scales or orchestra music is permitted. At least one piece should be memorized and must be indicated on the application.

Please note: If a competitor elects to perform a concerto in its entirety (all movements), and it is memorized, only one additional piece is required – not two, as stated above.

Prizes:

1st place – $1,000 college scholarship, a solo debut with a community orchestra, a set of high-quality strings, a year-long tuition-free (beginning fall 2024) scholarship for music lessons, opportunity to perform in a guest masterclass with a member of the Seattle Symphony, an opportunity to perform live on the radio on Classical KING FM’s Northwest Focus Live program and Unmute The Voices. They will also receive press opportunities in the local news and through Key to Change’s social media platform.

2nd place – a set of high-quality strings, an opportunity to perform in a guest masterclass with a member of the Seattle Symphony, and invited to perform at select events sponsored by Key to Change. They will also receive opportunities to be in the local news and featured on Key to Change’s social media platform.

3rd place – a set of high-quality strings and invited to perform at select events sponsored by Key to Change. They will also receive opportunities to be in the local news and to be featured on Key to Change’s social media platform.

At the judges’ discretion, they may recommend a second place winner(s) to also appear on the radio programs Northwest Focus Live or Unmute The Voices.

Please note:

  • Students who advance to the finals must be available to perform at the Spring Salon Fundraiser on Sunday, April 7, 2024 (3:00pm) at Benaroya Hall. Failure to perform in the finals round will result in immediate disqualification of the award.

  • Key to Change reserves the right to veto the judges’ decision and select other winners to make the radio appearances, in the event that the student winner(s) are not musically prepared or performance ready. The winner(s) will also forfeit their scholarship awards, radio and other performance appearances.

  • Previous winners of the Jessie Montgomery Division may not qualify for the top prize. However, past winners may compete and will be eligible for special prizes awarded by the jury panel.

Debut Competitive Division

Grades: 6-12

Who: Students currently enrolled in Key to Change, who are enrolled in group or private lessons or the COMBO program.

Performance Time Limit: A total of up to 10 minutes

Repertoire Requirement: Competitors must perform a two or three octave major or minor scale, the Perlman Concertino in A minor (for violin) in its entirety or Caleb Vaughn-Jones Piece no. 1 & Waltz (viola) and a piece of their choice. The piece of the competitor’s choice must be memorized.

Prizes:

  • 1st place – $500 college scholarship, a yearlong tuition-free (beginning fall 2024) music scholarship for music lessons, a performance in a guest masterclass with a member of the Seattle Symphony, a set of high-quality strings, and a live performance on the radio on Classical KING FM’s Northwest Focus Live and Unmute The Voices and additional opportunities to be in the local news and featured on Key to Change’s social media platform.

  • 2nd place – a $25 gift certificate to a music store, a set of high-quality strings and an invitation to perform at select events sponsored by Key to Change. (Note: At the judges’ discretion, they may recommend a second place winner(s) to also appear on Northwest Focus Live and/or Unmute The Voices).

  • 3rd place – a set of high-quality strings and an invitation to perform at select events sponsored by Key to Change.

Please note: Key to Change reserves the right to veto the judges’ decision and select other winners to make the radio appearances, in the event that the student winner(s) are not musically prepared or performance ready. The winner(s) will also forfeit their scholarship awards, radio and other performance appearances.

Non-Competitive Division

Grades: 6-12

Who: Any students who live, attend school and study their instrument in South King County. Students enrolled in Key to Change are also eligible to participate. Students may play a solo or bring up to three friends to play a duet, trio or quartet together. All participants in their “ensemble” must play the violin or viola. No other instruments are allowed. All participants must pay the enrollment fee.

Students who are also enrolled in the MY Southeast Orchestra program sponsored by the Seattle Youth Symphony, Cleveland and Franklin High Schools are also eligible.

Time limit to perform: A total of up to 5 minutes

Repertoire Requirement: Scales, etudes, short pieces, solos, chamber music or orchestra music is permitted. Students may perform with music. Students who are not enrolled in Key to Change may perform music without piano accompaniment or bring their own piano accompanist.

All students will receive a Certificate of Recognition and a Solo String Festival t-shirt.

Requirements

  1. Participants must live, attend school, and study their instrument in South King County. All students studying at Key to Change are eligible to participate. Students who do not study with a private instructor, but meet the aforementioned requirements are eligible. Students studying with instructors who live or teach outside of South King County are not eligible to participate.

  2. Participants must provide piano music if using a Key to Change piano accompanist.

  3. Participants may compete on one instrument only.

  4. Participants may compete in one division only, except for Young Artist Academy students, who may participate in both the concerto competition and Jessie Montgomery Division.

  5. Participants must provide four copies of their music for the adjudicators. Music must be placed in a three-ring binder (copied double sided) and hole punched.

  6. Participants must introduce their performance to the adjudicator and audience. Students should introduce themselves and their accompanist, name of school, title and composer of the ensemble (and, if appropriate, the movements being performed).

  7. Participants will be cut off if the allotted time is exceeded.

  8. Participants will receive written feedback from the adjudicator.

  9. Participants must check in one hour prior to their performance.

  10. The adjudicator’s decision is final and may not be appealed.

  11. Winners are required to participate in the radio broadcast and select events scheduled by Key to Change. Failure to participate in such events will result in disqualification and loss of scholarship.

A master schedule of student performances will be sent out one week before the festival begins.

Applicants must complete and submit the registration form no later than Monday, March 20, 2023 (11:59pm). You must also complete the $25 application fee.

For more information including event logistics and COVID-19 protocols, please visit our FAQs.

Grant Donnellan, violin

Violinist Grant Donnellan holds a Master of Music degree and Performance Certificate from Yale School of Music, and a Bachelor of Music in Performance from Oberlin Conservatory. His principal teachers include Sydney Harth, Eric Friedmann, Roland and Almita Vamos, and the Tokyo String Quartet. While at Yale he received the Ellen Battell-Stoeckel Chamber Music Excellence Award and was a member of the Irving S. Gilmore Scholarship Piano Trio. He has performed with numerous symphony orchestras, including the American Sinfonietta. Donnellan has been a guest artist at the Olympic Music Festival, the Governor’s Recital Series, Bellingham

Festival of Music, Wintergreen Music Festival, Cascadia Spring Music Festival, the Boulder Bach Society and the Holzhausen Music Festival in Germany. He has performed concertos with the Whatcom Symphony, Northwest Sinfonietta and the Western Washington University Symphony Orchestra. He teaches violin and coaches chamber music at Western and co-directs the summer Chamber Music Festival.


Shaunyce Omar, actress

Shaunyce Omar has performed on stages all around the world. She is a proud member of the Actor’s Equity Association. Some of her credits include: Barbecue, Crowns, Black Nativity, Hairspray, Matilda, The Wedding Band, My Heart is the Drum, The Pajama Game, Rejoice, Chicago, Hi Hat Hattie, The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Menopause The Musical – National Tour. Her TV/Film Credits include The Librarians and Last Seen In Idaho to name a few. Shaunyce’s voice can also be heard as the character Madison Grant in the State of Decay: LIFELINE video game. She is also the recipient of a Gregory, Footlight, Broadway World and The 5th Ave Theater’s Subscriber’s Choice awards. In addition to stage and screen work, Omar is a Teaching Artist and has taught in both public and private schools, arts organizations and overseas as a Master Sensei in Japan.

She holds a B.A degree in Theatre from Southern University and A&M College.


Seth Parker Woods, cello

Hailed by The Guardian as “a cellist of power and grace” who possesses “mature artistry and willingness to go to the brink,” two-time GRAMMY®-nominated cellist Seth Parker Woods has established his reputation as a versatile artist and innovator across multiple genres. Woods’ projects delve deep into our cultural fabric, reimagining traditional works and commissioning new ones to propel classical music into the future. As The New York Times wrote, “Woods is an artist rooted in classical music, but whose cello is a vehicle that takes him, and his concertgoers, on wide-ranging journeys.” Also at the forefront of fashion, Woods has topped the “Best Dressed” lists in Variety, Texas Monthly, and the OC Register, among others. He is an honoree of the 2023 Seattle Symphony’s 25th Anniversary Silver Gala and recipient of the 2022 Chamber Music America Michael Jaffee Visionary Award.

Among the highlights of his 2023-2024 season, Woods brings his GRAMMY-nominated, autobiographical tour-de-force Difficult Grace – described as “dazzlingly inventive” (Gramophone Magazine) and “a feast for the ears, eyes and mind” (The New York Times) – to San Diego and Philadelphia. The Philadelphia performance is supported by a major grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage alongside artist Barbara Earl Thomas, who will receive a special Philadelphia exhibition of Barbara Earl Thomas: The Illuminated Body, including a new collaborative work with Woods.

In addition, Woods performs the Boston premiere of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s UBIQUE at Harvard University and goes on to a pair of performances with GRAMMY Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn at Konzerthaus Dortmund in Germany. With American Modern Opera Company (AMOC), Woods tours a new version of John Adams’ El Niño: Nativity Reconsidered with libretto by Peter Sellars and concept by AMOC member Julia Bullock to Stanford Live and Yale University before returning to The Cathedral of St. John the Divine for a second year. Woods appears in two performances of Fallen Petals, a program commissioned by Chamber Music Detroit and inspired by stories of juvenile offenders serving life in prison – starting with a performance at Oberlin Conservatory, followed by a second date in Cincinnati. He makes additional appearances at Chamber Music Detroit with pianist Conor Hanick, violist Kristen Docter, and the Aizuri Quartet. Other engagements this season bring him to the Chicago Humanities Festival, Illumina Festival in Brazil, the Spoleto Festival in Charleston and on tour with USC to Montreal. Woods also serves as a panelist for the 2024 Sphinx Competition in Detroit.  

Woods is on the faculty of the Thornton School of Music at The University of Southern California as Assistant Professor of Practice – Cello and Chamber Music. He previously served on the faculties of the University at Buffalo, University of Chicago, Dartmouth College, and the Chicago Academy of the Arts and as Artist in Residence at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and Northwestern University – Center for New Music. Woods holds degrees from Brooklyn College, Musik Akademie der Stadt Basel, and a PhD from the University of Huddersfield. In the 2020-21 season, he was an Artist in Residence with the Kaufman Music Center, and from 2018-2020 he served as Artist in Residence with Seattle Symphony and Creative Consultant for the interactive concert hall, Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center.

Seth Parker Woods is a Pirastro Artist and endorses Pirastro Perpetual Strings worldwide.

Judges

Jennifer Arnold, violist, former member of the Oregon Symphony

Dr. Haerim Elizabeth Lee, assistant professor of violin at Texas Christian University

Dr. Anthony Spain, conductor of Northwest Symphony Orchestra


Jennifer Arnold, violist

Jennifer Arnold visits Key to Change group classes and conducts masterclasses for Young Artist Academy students.

Jennifer Arnold spent fourteen seasons as a violist with the Oregon Symphony. Jennifer worked as a staff member for Portland’s 45th Parallel chamber series spending the last season as Director of Artistic Operations. In 2016 Jennifer took a sabbatical and was chosen as the first Diversity Fellow in Arts Administration for the Sphinx Organization, supporting the global conference SphinxConnect in Detroit, MI. As an advocate for arts education and access, she served three years as the Oregon chapter president of the American String Teachers Association and was on the planning committee for Oregon Bravo, Portland’s El Sistema program.

Jennifer hails from Cleveland, OH and is a proud graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music. In addition to her musical work, she is a member of the Urban League and volunteers for social justice based non-profits in her free time.


Haerim Elizabeth Lee, violinist

Haerim Elizabeth Lee is a Korean violinist with captivating artistry and musical leadership.

Elizabeth began her first solo debut with orchestra at nine years old. She continued her stellar career as a guest soloist with the Winston-Salem Symphony, Symphony of the Mountains, New Amsterdam Symphony, Chelsea Symphony, Orquesta Sinfonica de la Unal, Seoul Virtuosi, Daejeon Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra Olimpia and Filharmonie Bohuslava Martinu. In 2015, Elizabeth performed as the Concertmaster with Yo-Yo Ma at the Kennedy Center Honors concert in Washington, D.C., to recognize Maestro Seiji Ozawa in front of U.S. leaders such as former President Obama.

Elizabeth’s musical career crosses many paths and places. Her most cherished experiences have been collaborating with world-renowned artists such as Robert McDuffie, Stephan Picard, Barry Shiffman, David Halen, Christopher Rex, and Todd Palmer. She has performed in numerous music festivals such as Prussia Cove International Music Seminar, Banff Centre, Aspen Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, Music Academy of the West, Heifetz International Music Festival, Spoleto Music Festival USA, Schleswig-Holestein Musik Festival, and Sarasota Music Festival.

Elizabeth immigrated from Daejeon, South Korea when she was eight years old to pursue a scholarship in music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from New England Conservatory, her Master in Music degree from Rice University Shepherd School of Music, and a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan. During her doctoral studies, Elizabeth was inspired by her experiences abroad at the Paris Conservatoire and had a more profound passion for French culture, musical history, and food.


Dr. Anthony Spain, conductor

Anthony Spain has been Music Director of the Northwest Symphony Orchestra (NWSO) since 1987. Dr. Spain’s innovative programming of northwest American composers first came to national attention in 1996 with a mention in a front page Wall Street Journal article regarding up and coming arts groups. Since then both he, and the NWSO, have garnered Eight National ASCAP awards for “Programming of Contemporary Music,” and been featured several times on National Public Radio.

Dr. Spain has guest conducted orchestras and choirs throughout America and in Europe. He has conducted the Orfeo International Orchestra with the choir of L’UNESCO (the cultural branch of the United Nations) in Paris, France as well as the Bath Philharmonic in Bath, England. The Bath Chronicle exclaimed of Dr. Spain “He has a type of charisma, which extends to the far orchestral corners.” He has been a guest conductor with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and a cover conductor with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, and most recently guest conducted in Hong Kong, as well as with the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Honduras.

Dedicated to education Dr. Spain is an active clinician and adjudicator, and he works regularly with students throughout the Seattle and Highline area, as part of the NWSO’s “Symphony for Students” program. He has been a guest speaker at conferences such as the American Symphony Orchestra League’s National Convention, and Conductor’s Guild National Conference. Spain graduated in 1990 with a Doctorate Degree in Music from the University of Washington, and has received numerous awards and honors including a Grammy nomination in vocal jazz performance. He is also a board member of Ars Nova Music.

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