Rosen-Schaffel Young Artist Competition celebrates its inaugural season

Young musicians from across North Carolina were invited to compete in the inaugural year of the Rosen-Schaffel Young Artist Competition, a new initiative of Appalachian State University, co-presented by An Appalachian Summer Festival and the university's acclaimed Hayes School of Music.

The Rosen-Schaffel Young Artist Competition was created to support and promote professional endeavors of young American artists pursuing careers in the fine arts. The competition was created to continue the Rosen legacy in memory of Arnold and Muriel Rosen by their daughter Nancy Schaffel and her husband, Neil. The Rosens were the founding patrons of An Appalachian Summer Festival, the university's highly anticipated annual summer arts festival founded in 1984. To continue the festival's mission and founding principles, the Schaffels underwrote the competition.

About the competition

Rising seniors or recent graduates nominated by accredited North Carolina colleges or universities submitted recordings of their work to be judged by a panel of 18 distinguished musicians. Each participating institution was allowed to nominate four semi-finalists in the following categories: strings (including guitar and harp), winds/brass, voice and piano/percussion. Of the semi-finalists, preliminary round jurors chose eight individuals to compete in the final round.

"We wanted to give young musicians a chance to get out there and give them the opportunity to perform," said Nancy Schaffel. "The original mission statement of An Appalachian Summer Festival was to showcase young American talent. This competition does that, along with bringing the community together."

During the final round of the competition, the eight finalists presented a public performance of their work on July 24, 2011 in Rosen Concert Hall. The jurors selected a first- and second-place winner and with the help of the audience, an Audience Choice award to receive cash prizes. During the competition, the jurors decided to recognize a third-place winner and donors Mark and Nancy Tafeen stepped forward with a cash gift.

The jurors of the final round consisted of three highly respected conductors: Gerard Schwarz of the Seattle Symphony and the Eastern Music Festival, Robert Moody of the Winston Salem and Portland Symphonies and Jacomo Bairos of the Charlotte Symphony.

Third-place winner Julia Byrd said, "Performing for such an impressive panel of judges and alongside such outstanding competitors was nerve-racking, but learning how to channel that stress into giving a high energy performance is a crucial skill for young musicians like myself to develop."

The winners of the competition are:

  • First place - Saxophonist Ben Robinette of University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Robinette received the first-place award of $1,500 and an invitation to perform with the Eastern Festival Orchestra as part of An Appalachian's Summer Festival's 2012 season.
  • Second place - Bradley Plesz of Appalachian received an award of $1,000 after his concertino for xylophone.
  • Third place - Pianist Julia Byrd of Lenoir-Rhyne University received a gift of $500.
  • Audience Choice award - Violinist Cynthia Burton of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received an award of $500.

"Competitions like this are important for young classical artists," said 24-year-old Ben Robinette, who took first place. "The healthy spirit of competition is always a nice thing to use to push yourself and people around you to stay on top of your musical endeavors. For young musicians who haven't had this experience before, it's something they need to experience and cherish while they can still get it."

"Having the opportunity to perform at an early age in competitions has allowed me to grow and prepare my future as a musician," said Appalachian's Bradley Plesz, second-place winner. "There is no greater opportunity than to allow young artists to voice their talent, commitment and emotions. Events such as the Rosen-Schaffel Young Artist Competition have given me the ability to show my true potential as a performer, musician and above all my voice of expression."

About An Appalachian Summer Festival

An Appalachian Summer Festival celebrated its 27th season in 2011 and is one of the nation's most highly anticipated summer arts festivals. The university's Office of Arts and Cultural Programs presents the festival annually in July. Founded in 1984 by Arnold and Muriel Rosen, the festival focuses on the principle of promoting young American artists by presenting and producing programs in music, theatre, dance, film and visual arts. Learn more about An Appalachian Summer Festival