Winning the chance to play an entire concerto on the Abravanel Hall stage with a full orchestra behind you is a big deal for any young musician. That's true even for 13-year-old Aubree Oliverson, who already soloed with a single concerto movement on Utah Symphony's Salute to Youth concert when she was 11.
Things didn't slow down for Oliverson when she turned 12. That's the year she performed at Carnegie Hall as first-prize winner of the American ProtÃ©gÃ© International Strings Competition. The Orem teen recently performed on the National Public Radio show "From the Top," which features the nation's most promising young musicians.
As nice as those honors are, the chance to perform a full concerto with orchestra is so significant that Oliverson didn't expect it to come her way yet.
The Utah Symphony held auditions last August to choose the young musicians who would perform on last fall's Salute to Youth concert and the standout student who would perform a full concerto on its All-Star Evening.
Aubree played the third movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto for her audition. "I practiced really hard all summer for it," she said.
At first she was disappointed when she read the list of Salute to Youth winners. Then she learned she'd been selected to play at the All-Star Evening.
Aubree was thrilled, even though the honor came with a daunting homework assignment: She had to master the other two movements of the Tchaikovsky concerto, often performed by the world's greatest violinists.
The teenager and her teacher, Eugene Watanabe, got to work immediately. "I love the Tchaikovsky concerto, but it's really, really hard," Aubree said. "The challenge is getting it really in tune, so I can sell it to the audience and not be nervous onstage."
Other young musicians, too, are putting in the extra practice hours in anticipation of the All-Star concert. The annual concert celebrates Utah's next generation of musicians by featuring exceptional high-school instrumentalists from 38 schools, who perform side-by-side with the Utah Symphony's career musicians.
The young players, mostly high-school seniors, attend mentoring sessions and sectionals led by Utah Symphony musicians in the weeks leading up to the performance. Natural talent, hard work and good coaching get them ready for their performance of works by Prokofiev, Wagner and Sibelius, conducted by Utah Symphony associate conductor Vladimir Kulenovic.
"I've had the pleasure of rehearsing this wonderful and enthusiastic group of students three times already, and I can say that we are preparing for an explosion of passionate energy at the concert," Kulenovic said. "For the students, it is an express ticket to see how intense music-making is on a professional level, and the level of focus each individual needs to bring into play."
Kulenovic said the All-Star concert motivates students and unlocks new possibilities that benefit all areas of their lives. He and his Utah Symphony colleagues gain from the experience, too. "For us, it's an infusion of new passion, which we have the honor to help cultivate in the service of these great pieces. â¦ We will all come out of this experience enriched and rewarded," he said.
He and Aubree are already accustomed to musical collaboration, as he conducts the youth orchestra of the Gifted Music School, of which she is a member and frequent concertmistress.
"It is admirable and rare to see a young musician as dedicated, talented and capable as Aubree," Kulenovic said. "When I heard her for the first time, it was apparent that not only was her performance a technically polished one, but a profound interpretation that truly had something meaningful to express."
He describes the musician's tone quality as "mature, very serious, superbly cultivated, and in the service of the music."
Aubree began violin lessons at age 6. The daughter of Stephen and Jill Oliverson is an eighth-grader at Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy in Lindon. "It seemed to really click with me," she said. "I remember liking it from the very start."
She began composing music at a young age and performing in a duo with her father, a pianist and composer (and high-school principal). The duo, called Moon Light, gives Aubree the chance to showcase her many compositions, which have won state and national awards.
Despite all the music in her life, she's a swimming champ and gymnast who loves school, shopping and hanging out with friends. "I'm not especially different from other kids," she said. "I just have a love for music, that's all."
That's a sentiment shared by the students who will play beside Utah Symphony members at the concert. Each worked hard for the opportunity and committed not to miss any mentoring sessions or rehearsals.
For cellist Gina Allyn, 18, finding rides to rehearsals was no problem. She rode with her dad, Utah Symphony bassist Jamie Allyn, who will be playing in the May 15 concert. Her mother, Lisa Hagan Bruemmer, is a bassist with the orchestra.
"I practically grew up with the symphony ran around backstage as a little kid," Gina Allyn said. "Now, I actually get to walk through the stage door with them. I've known all these musicians forever it's exciting for one night to be playing alongside them."
Utah Symphony All-Star Evening
The concert features high-school musicians performing alongside Utah Symphony musicians.
With • Conductor Vladimir Kulenovic and violinist Aubree Oliverson.
When • Tuesday, May 15, at 7 p.m.
Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.
Tickets • $8-$20; recommended for ages 12 and older; available at 801-355-ARTS or http://www.usuo.org.