Shaping the World Through Music: AZ Musicfest Young Scholars
Writer Amanda Christmann
Photography Courtesy of Arizona Musicfest
Ask anyone from Idaho to Ireland what they know about Arizona, and you’ll likely hear something about cacti, cowboys and the Grand Canyon. Soon, however, you may be just as likely to hear Arizona, particularly the North Valley, referred to as an incubator of phenomenal young musical talent thanks to its increasing quality of music education to many young student musicians.
Since 2010, Arizona Musicfest has contributed over $60,000 toward helping young musicians and composers further their education and training. It would be an understatement to say that the caliber of talent for the Arizona Musicfest scholarship program is impressive; these students have often gone on to become top performers at some of the most elite schools in the nation.
Four current Arizona Musicfest scholarship recipients are Robert Bui, Thomas Desrosiers, Ryanne McLaren and Anna Han. These students are making the most of the opportunities provided through Arizona Musicfest and are representing themselves, their families and our community with aplomb across the country and throughout the world.
Robert Bui is a Mountain View High School graduate whose command of music is inspiring. A 2017 Arizona Musicfest scholarship recipient, Robert began his composition studies at New England Conservatory this fall, a big step in his journey toward becoming a film composer.
“I’m extremely grateful to have been selected for the Arizona Musicfest scholarship,” Robert said. “I can’t possibly thank my colleagues, friends, parents and teachers enough for everything they’ve done to support me.
“I’d also like to give the biggest of thanks to Arizona Musicfest for being one of the most influential organizations I’ve associated with, especially for my development in chamber music skills. Once again, I am extremely honored and highly appreciative to have this support for my education and beyond.”
When 2016 Arizona Musicfest scholar Thomas Desrosiers picked up a clarinet for the first time in sixth grade, he had no idea the impact that his instrument would have on his life and the lives of many other budding musicians.
While in high school, in addition to numerous musical accolades Thomas earned, he led a project to collect, repair and redistribute band and orchestra instruments to low-income students and continued his outreach by volunteering as a clarinet instructor for Harmony Project PHX.
Now, with the help of his Arizona Musicfest scholarship, Thomas is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University and is passionately pursuing his degree in music education with a concentration in music theory. His desire to give back to others through music is a testament to his parents, teachers and mentors along the way.
“Music has become my life,” said Thomas. “My ultimate goal is to share the love and power of music with as many people as possible.”
He is currently doing just that by partnering with a friend to teach entry-level music theory to Vanderbilt students who want to continue music as a hobby, in addition to their regular studies.
While other Arizona Musicfest scholars are spreading their wings inside the U.S., 2015 scholarship recipient Ryanne McLaren is pursuing her dream abroad. This promising young pianist, violinist and vocalist was a member of the National Honor Society, student council, principal’s council and volunteer during her years at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert, and she has continued to strive for excellence as a performance in piano and organ major at La Mirada, California’s Biola University.
Now a junior at Biola, she has traveled to Cremona, Italy to participate in an international music academy, collaborating with the premier quintet and performing in the grand finale of a long series of concerts. She also took her talent to Cambridge, where she spent time studying English literature with the Torrey Honors Institute.
“I aspire to achieve a graduate degree in collaborative piano,” she said. “Accompanying and working alongside other musicians are my passions.”
Twenty-one-year-old Anna Han is, as the Washington Post has proclaimed, “prodigiously gifted … a display of imagination, taste and pianistic firepower far beyond her years.”
Now a senior studying piano performance at Juliard, Anna is making her mark across the globe, tickling the ivories from Washington D.C. to Warsaw.
As much as Anna has accomplished, she continues to delve deeper into her gift for music, exploring new facets and deeper meaning. “I have been learning the importance of connecting to your audiences and making what you do relevant to them,” she explained.
Thanks in part to the Arizona Musicfest scholarship program, Anna will complete her Juliard education and continue to shine her music on new audiences. “This is something I hope to be able to spread, and it is my goal to continue performing more and more as I grow.”
Arizona Musicfest relies on the generous support of its patrons to help sustain the Arizona Musicfest scholarship program, and to support talented young musicians with their many pursuits. If you would like to help, visit the Arizona Musicfest website.