Reflecting on 30 Years: The Start of the Student Concerto Program

A Word from Tom…

Did you know that having student perform a concerto was not originally part of the programs? In the early years, we had one of our orchestra members perform a French Horn concerto, to give kids an introduction to the concepts of concerto and cadenza.

After a few years, the extraordinary piano teacher Carolyn Shaak came up with a great idea: have a student solo with the orchestra. Carolyn’s idea of a student soloist really took off. The soloist program has become one of the most inspiring parts of what we do – you wouldn’t believe the number of “fan letters” we get for the kids who perform.

I remember our first soloist — Mike Weiss. Mike is blind and has an incredible ear. I had him on my KOA Radio show, people would call in and play a recording of their favorite pianist. Mike would have to identify the artist by listening over the phone. From Horowitz, to Gould. From Murray Perahia to Emanuel Ax– he got ’em all right. I think he was in middle school at the time. The student soloist segment was cemented in place — and is a staple of our programming even today.

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