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19th Annual All-Star Concert promises many musical firsts for student performers

(Julia Chen/Daily Bruin)

“19th Annual UCLA Philharmonia All-Star Concert”

Schoenberg Hall

Feb. 4

4:00 p.m.

By Samantha Reavis

Feb. 3, 2024 11:29 a.m.

This Sunday, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music all-stars are getting the opportunity to showcase their musical prowess for the UCLA community.

The 19th Annual All-Star Concert, held by the School of Music, provides students in the department the chance to perform as soloists with the UCLA Philharmonia, the university’s flagship orchestra. Performers for the concert were selected through a rigorous audition process, where judges looked for musicians performing fresh and forward-thinking works, said Nayeon Cho, a fourth-year music performance student and flute soloist at the All-Star concert.

“I was born and raised in Korea, and I never performed in the U.S.,” Cho said. “This is a big chance for me.”

[Related: UCLA Philharmonia to bring music and mystery with concert ‘One Foot in the Grave’]

Preparing a solo piece for the concert can feel very isolating, said second-year music performance student Rin Homma. Musicians have to make sure that every note is prepared so that when they play it at full speed, it has the correct tone and volume connection with other notes, she said. Soloists also focus on slow practice, phrasing and becoming comfortable with the orchestra, said Daniel Reyes-Velarde, a saxophonist and graduate student in music performance.

“It’s a big first for me because it will be my first time playing as a soloist with orchestra,” Reyes-Velarde said. “That is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and to do it with one of my favorite pieces just means that much more to me.”

Reyes-Velarde said he had to get rid of some old habits while preparing his piece for the All-Star concert and also enhance his comprehension of the piece before performing it for an audience. For third-year music performance transfer student and tubist Daler Babaev, preparing a solo for the competition was challenging. He added that he started preparing for the process a month and a half in advance, focusing on memorizing the piece, he said.

“I still can’t believe that it’s going to happen in a week,” Babaev said. “I get to perform with my colleagues – the people that I’m studying with – and they are going to accompany me in that special event.”

Ally Cho, a graduate student in music performance and a violinist, said because it is her first time playing with an orchestra, she wants to absorb the experience. Similarly, Shannon Delijani, a doctoral student in musical arts, said she finds it rewarding to perform with an orchestra as a soloist. When performing with an orchestra in the context of the All-Stars concert, musicians can form a close relationship with the group, she said.

“I wish there was a way for every person to feel what it’s like to stand in the middle of an orchestra – it’s really indescribable,” Delijani said. “The first time I ever sang with an orchestra, I felt, ‘Well, now I can’t quit music. Now, I have to do this forever.’”

[Related: Winter Concert Preview: Explore LA’s plethora of unique music experiences this season]

For Delijani, an all-star musician is someone who is an artist and interpreter of music. Musicians should immerse themselves in the piece while inspiring their colleagues and the audience, she said. Performing as a soloist with an orchestra is a goal that many musicians aim to achieve, Babaev said.

Furthermore, Delijani said the All-Star concert is also an opportunity for her to positively portray her culture. She said she will be singing two movements of Maurice Ravel’s “Shéhérazade,” which is based on the Iranian folktale collection, “One Thousand and One Nights.” As an Iranian person, Delijani said she feels very privileged to perform this piece, adding that she can bring a little bit of authenticity to her interpretation of it.

Homma said one of the best parts of being a performer is keeping the audience in suspense and pacing the music in such a way that when the climax is delivered, it packs a punch. Moreover, Delijani said she feels grateful that she can be a part of such a huge performance.

“Being able to sing with orchestra, especially with such an exceptional conductor in such a great ensemble, is indescribable,” Delijani said. “It’s like standing on the tip of an airplane or something – you have so much support and so much happening around you, but you get swept away with it in this really interesting way that you don’t really get when it’s just you by yourself.”

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