Young Artist Competition set for Jan. 20

A new name, 14 competitors and a day of live music.

All are part of a public event Saturday, Jan. 20.

The Nico Snel Young Artist Competition promises music of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saens and many other masters — with musicians from Port Angeles to Brinnon performing. These players, age 8-22, compete for $1,400 in cash awards.

All lovers of music are invited to the competition at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 301 Lopez Ave., where admission is free.

The events are newly named for Nico Snel, the late conductor of the Port Angeles Symphony who founded the Young Artist Competition.

The 12th annual Junior Young Artist Competition — for musicians 14 and younger — starts the day at 9:30 a.m. with four contestants: Port Angeles violinist Yau Fu; pianists Josh Gavin and Luke Gavin of Port Angeles and violinist Aliyah Cassidy Yearian of Port Townsend. Their competition pieces range from a Beethoven sonata to a Vivaldi concerto.

Next comes the 32nd annual Young Artist Competition, aka the senior event, set to start at 11:10 a.m. In order of performance, the competitors are violinist Marley Cochran; French horn player Clarisse Finman; violinist Charlotte Hertel, flutist Tana Hiigel; pianist Emilyann Peterson; violist Lauren Waldron; flutist Tirzah Small; violinist Meiqi Liang; vocalist Sienna Porter and pianist Emma Weller. All are from Port Angeles except Small, who is a homeschooled student from Brinnon.

“This is a great opportunity not only for the young talent to be recognized, but also for the community to come out and support them, and see what they’re up to,” said Jonathan Pasternack, conductor and music director of the Port Angeles Symphony.

The Symphony has hosted the two contests since their inception, offering the participants feedback from professional musicians along with the prize money. The professionals serving as judges this year are Pasternack, Port Angeles Symphony principal oboist Anne Krabill, pianist and composer Linda Dowdell and Denise Dillenbeck, a teaching artist and the guest violinist performing this week with the Port Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Robbin Eaves, organizer of the competition, noted that listeners can come for any length of time during the day. Stay for one, two or a few performances, she said, and listen to the playing as well as the judges’ comments.

The young musicians shine brightly on this day; “I love their vibrant energy,” said Eaves.

Breaks are built into the day’s schedule. The first one comes at about 11 a.m. right after the Junior Young Artist Competition finishes up. Then there’s a half-hour lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m., and one last break from 2:20 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The competition will wrap up by 3:30 p.m. with winners announced later in the evening.

The Port Angeles Symphony board of directors voted recently to name the competition after Snel, the beloved leader of the symphony orchestra for close to two decades.

“Education was very close to his heart,” said Pasternack, who first met the older conductor in 1996.

Snel died from cancer in 2003, many years after his diagnosis. He was known for scheduling his treatments around orchestra rehearsals and performances.

“He was the most courageous man I have ever known,” then-symphony manager Mark Wendeborn told the Seattle Times following Snel’s death at age 69.

Snel was born in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, and emigrated to the United States when he was a teenager. A violinist of formidable skill, he later went to Germany to perform with the Seventh Army Symphony, and rose to its conductorship in 1958, when he was just 24.

He returned to the United States in the 1960s, where he went on to conduct California’s Oakland Light Opera, Diablo Light Opera and Oakland Temple Pageant chorus and orchestra. Snel became conductor of the Seattle Philharmonic in 1980 and held that post for 15 years.

Snel also led the Port Angeles Symphony from 1985 till late 2003. His widow, Sharon Snel, is still a flutist and music librarian in the orchestra.

Over the years since he established the competition for young musicians, supporters and board members of the Port Angeles Symphony have donated the prize money. This year the winner of the senior Young Artist Competition will receive $500; second place brings $250 and third place $200. In the Junior Young Artist Competition, first prize is $250, second $125 and third prize $75.

For information about the Nico Snel Young Artist Competition and about Port Angeles Symphony concerts this month through winter and spring, see or phone the symphony office at 360-457-5579.

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