The Charleston Symphony Orchestra named its winner of the second Young Artist Competition on Saturday night. Violinist Yehun (Danny) Jin of South Korea, a 15-year-old student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, won the grand prize and $2,500 for his performance of selections from Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy.
Danny was one of five finalists who performed before the orchestra at Memminger Auditorium on Saturday, after a rigorous whittling down of competitors. “He executed everything flawlessly,” said competition organizer Janice Crews, the CSO’s director of education and community engagement.
The other finalists — pianist Brian Le, 16, of Silver Spring, Md.; violinist Victoria Pan, 18, of Tega Cay; Bassoonist Eli Holmes, 15, of Vestal, NY; and soprano Jessica Moss, 23, of Cortland, NY — also performed exceptionally well, making the judges’ job difficult, Crews said. Each received $1,000.
The judges were Jason Posnock, Ashville Symphony concertmaster and violin teacher at Brevard Music Center; Phyllis Bryn-Julson, chairwoman of the voice department at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore; Robert Sullivan, principal trumpet of the Cincinnati Orchestra; and Joseph Rackers, piano professor at the University of South Carolina.
Danny was born in Seoul, South Korea, and started violin at 3. He made his solo debut with the Seoul Royal Symphony when he was 9, and continued his studies at the Korean National University of Arts and National School for the Gifted in Arts.
At Curtis, one of the most prestigious and selective music conservatories in the world, he is studying with Ida Kavafian. Danny has won several grand and first prizes at regional competitions in Asia.
The CSO’s Young Artist Competition drew more than 140 eligible applicants who submitted recordings and other material for review; 13 were selected as semi-finalists and invited to come to Charleston where they auditioned Thursday before the judges, who selected five for the final concert round on Saturday.
The competition has grown significant in just one year, Crews said. In 2014, nearly 90 musicians entered; this year, the number of applicants rose to more than 140. Many of these young players already are on a music career path, studying at conservatories and competing regionally and nationally, Crews said.
The event is sponsored by PepsiCo for three years, and already Crews and her colleagues are planning for 2016.
“We’ll have audition videos due sometime in January, then a concert at same time of year (in April),” she said.
Seats at Saturday’s concert were only half full, perhaps because patrons underestimate the talent of the young competitors, Crews said. “They think it’s going to be a talent show.” But this is no talent show. “These kids are insane.”