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Pasadena Showcase Brings Instrumental Competition to Life

Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts held its 36th Instrumental Competition on Jan. 28 at Pasadena Conservatory of Music’s Barrett Hall.
Nine finalists, ages 14-18, demonstrated their musical talents while competing for monetary prizes totaling $18,500. This was the second year that the competitors were high school students.
“We felt this would be a great time for these students to experience the competition,” said Pasadena Showcase President Vikki Sung. “There’s such a wealth of talented and promising musicians in the greater Pasadena area. We have gotten a very positive response.”
A team of judges from the Los Angeles Philharmonic were on hand to review the finalists’ performances. Christine Upton, 2023 instrumental competition chair, said the competition gives these talented musicians the opportunity to receive supportive comments and evaluations from the judging panel as well as cash prizes to help them pursue their studies.
Muyang Wu, a 16-year-old violinist, was awarded the grand prize for “exceptional talent and musicianship.” Wu studied the violin for seven years at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music until 2021 and is currently at the Colburn Music Academy. Wu said that he has always felt “a strong connection to music.” He said playing the violin has always comes natural to him.
“I feel very relaxed when I play, and it just gives me so much enjoyment,” Wu said.
Anais Feller, a 17-year-old violinist from Arcadia, took first-place prize in the strings category. A student at Oak Crest Academy and the Colburn Music Academy, Feller has been playing the violin since she was just 5 years old. She is concert master of the Colburn Virtuosi, was the soloist in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the South Coast Symphony and has performed in the North American Conservatories “Unite for Ukraine” concert.
Max Kaminski’s clarinet performance earned the 17-year-old musician the first-place prize in the woodwinds category. The high school senior was also a winner at last year’s instrumental competition, taking home the second-place prize. Kaminski is also a talented pianist and has won national and international competitions in both the clarinet and the piano. He has played with the Glendale Youth Orchestra, the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra and the Colburn Youth Orchestra.
A tie for the second-place prize in strings went to Anna Yoo, a 16-year-old violinist from La Cañada and Samuel Tatsuki, a 14-year-old violist from Arcadia. Currently studying at the Colburn Music Academy, Yoo said that music has always been part of her life. At just 9 years old, she was the soloist at a Bach double violin concerto with the LASI Orchestra. Tatsuki, the youngest finalist, is a student at the California School of the Arts in San Gabriel Valley and the Colburn Community School.
The second-place prize in woodwinds was taken home by David Kwon for his performance on the oboe. The 17-year-old is a Music Center Spotlight semifinalist and the principal oboist in the CBDA All State High School Symphony Orchestra. He says he has always loved music, especially the sound of the oboe.
The Jack Smith Award for Most Promising Talent was given to Zachary Piesner, a 16-year-old bassoonist. He is a principal bassoonist with the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra and has been a member of the All-Southern California Honors Band since 2020. Not new to the Instrumental Competition, Piesner took home the second-place prize for woodwinds in 2022.
Pasadena Showcase has awarded more than $650,000 in prizes to promising music students since the Instrumental Competition began in 1985. This year’s prizes are generously underwritten by Kathryn and Charles Hofgaarden.
Pasadena Showcase’s other musical programs include the Music Mobile for 3rd-graders and the Youth Concert for 4th-graders. In addition, the organization awards Gifts & Grants to a diverse list of local and regional nonprofit organizations in support of their efforts in the community.
Additionally, Pasadena Showcase has a longstanding history of supporting the L.A. Phil and its learning programs. To date, Pasadena Showcase has contributed more than $24 million to music programs in Southern California.
The 2023 Pasadena Showcase House of Design will be open from April 23 through May 21. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit, or call (626) 606-1600.

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