Young Artist Competition rouses local musicians and community members

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By Caitlin V. Reidy, Contributing Writer

Young Artist Competition rouses local musicians and community members
Justin Wang plays piano. Wang recently won recognition in the senior category of the Young Artist Competition in Worcester.

REGION – A number of local performers won recognition at this year’s Young Artist Competition in Worcester, welcoming the opportunity to share their musical talent in an environment that offered prestige, and a sense of community.

For organizers, the event was a major success, returning in a virtual format after it was cancelled due to COVID-19 last year.

Northborough, Shrewsbury musicians showcase skills

Northborough resident and first place competitor in the competition’s senior category, Justin Wang, stated that this year’s event was more challenging than usual because contestants had more opportunities to perfect their video submissions. 

“Music is intentionally meant to be in front of people, so when you’re in a video, your own personal standards are higher because you want to submit something that you’re completely satisfied with,” he said. 

Wang, who is a student at the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science in Worcester, has been playing the piano and violin for 10 years. In turn, he has been competing with Music Worcester since he was in sixth grade.

Though he is interested in studying biology or biochemistry in college, Wang stated that “music is going to be a part of him forever because it is a foundational part of him.”

Young Artist Competition rouses local musicians and community members
Vivien Shen recently won recognition for her piano playing in the junior category of the Young Artist Competition in Worcester.

At eleven years old, meanwhile, Vivien Shen of Shrewsbury took first place in the Junior category by playing piano. 

This was her first time competing in the Young Artist Competition, though she said she has been playing piano since she was five years old. 

Shen stated that her teacher encouraged her to participate in the competition, adding that she was inspired to learn and play music by her older sister. 

Shen said that she has performed in many recitals and concerts, saying that her future goal is to “do more complex pieces of music in front of larger audiences.” 

Alongside Wang and Shen, five other area residents won varying forms of recognition at the Young Artist Competition. Those included Plamen Fung and April Zhang of Westborough, Selena Shen and Aditi Pathak of Shrewsbury, and Sami Wang of Northborough.

Young Artist Competition thrives in virtual format

Though this year’s Young Artist Competition ran in a virtual format, Music Worcester’s education and community assistant Heather MacFarlane said the event was “particularly special” because students were able to compete again after 2020’s competition was canceled due to the coronavirus. 

“Our students were able to have a little bit of normal, even if they were doing it from home,” she said. “Music Worcester was happy to be able to bring back another part of our yearly programming, even pivoting virtually.” 

MacFarlane has been working for Music Worcester for the past year and a half, explaining that she started just 25 days before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Though never done remotely, the Young Artist Competition successfully kicked off between April 1 and May 14 of this year, when videos were being submitted for consideration for monetary awards. 

According to MacFarlane, since students had to submit their videos this year for consideration, contestants were offered an accompanist if they requested one. They were able to record and present the best version of their performances for the competition. 

MacFarlane said that most videos were taken on iPhones and were recorded in students’ homes or their teachers’ classrooms and offices. She added that since many of the judges are teachers themselves, it took a bit longer to accommodate everyone’s availability.

She said that, though this pandemic may have called for Music Worcester to do things differently, “being able to do this competition is something good that they could do for their students.”