Meet the 2019 Ima Hogg Competition Semi-Finalists

Meet the 2019 Ima Hogg Competition Semi-Finalists

This year’s Ima Hogg Competition features nine young musicians who hail from three countries and five different U.S. states, including two from Texas (and three Rice University graduates). Together, the group has won more than 60 awards and accolades—and all before their 26th birthdays!

Read on to learn more about the talented competitors who compete in the Ima Hogg Competition Semi-Finals on Thursday, May 30. Four will advance to the finals on Saturday, June 1. Learn more here.

Katherine Audas, cello

Age: 22
School: Pursuing master’s degree, Rice University
Hometown: Boise, Idaho
Semi-Finals Selections: Elgar’s Cello Concerto; Bloch’s Schelomo

“I fell in love with both pieces because of their soaring melodic lines and passionate backstories,” Katherine says. “The pieces reflect both composers’ growing disillusionment and despair for the future following World War I. We can hear their emotional distress in colorful outpourings of lyricism.”
About Katherine: “Most people associate Idaho with potato farms,” Katherine says, “but it is much more than that. Boise sits at the base of the mountains with a river that runs through the center of town. It is a community centered on both sports and the arts. This showed me the importance of having family, friends, and a community to support me, as well as the value of supporting others in return.”

Katherine started playing cello at the age of four, switching from violin as soon as she was tall enough to play a 1/10-sized cello. Of going from practicing on a stepstool in her living room to competing in the Ima Hogg Competition, she says, “I wouldn’t be where I am now without my teachers, my parents, and my friends. I am so thankful that they have believed in me since the beginning and still believe in me today.” View Katherine’s full profile

Ziqing Guo, violin

Age: 22
School: Pursuing master’s degree, Manhattan School of Music
Luoyang, China
Semi-Finals Selections:
Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1; Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3

“I chose the Concerto No.1 due to its unique melody and harmony. The beginning of the first movement especially is just dreamlike and beautiful, and I’m fascinated by its magical harmonies. The Mozart has great lyrical characters and provides contrast to the Prokofiev. It’s very elegant and graceful.”

About Ziqing: Ziqing grew up surrounded by musicians. He attended the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Now at the Manhattan School of Music, he studies with Sylvia Rosenberg. “She taught me to respect everything a composer puts in the score,” Ziqing says. His favorite composer is Stravinsky, whose variability he admires. Two of Ziqing’s favorite pieces are Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

Ziqing’s favorite food is sushi, so during Competition Week, you may find him at Uchi or Kata Robata during a practice break. If you don’t see him there, he is either in the practice room or watching Black Mirror, his favorite TV show. View Ziqing’s full profile

Watch: Ziqing performed Mendelssohn’s Trio No. 1 in D minor at a master class with Joseph Kalichstein.

Rachel Lee Hall, harp

Age: 25
School: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Cleveland Institute of Music
Roanoke, Virginia
Semi-Finals Selections: Gliere’s Harp Concerto; Ginastera’s Harp Concerto

Gliere’s concerto speaks to me as a message of courage and hope, of the hero who remains steadfast under trial, seeking what is truly beautiful amidst suffering and hardship and at last rising to victory. I consider the Ginastera to be one of the best contributions to the harp repertoire. There is something about Ginastera’s signature harmonic structure that propels a musician toward creating true performance art—there are so many colors to explore and tinker with, so many ways to express what’s in the music.”

About Rachel: She started playing harp at age six. “As a young performer I used to get the worst case of stage fright, to the point that I wouldn’t be able to perform at all!” she says. “I remember after one particularly frightening performance experience, my dad explained to me that performances shouldn’t be about me or what an audience thinks of me. Instead, I should think of a performance as a unique opportunity to give my audience a gift they have never been given before: my own interpretation of a piece of music.”

After that, every time she performed, she would imagine “going on stage and unwrapping that gift for the audience. It completely changed not only my perspective on performances, but the way I actually performed as well. I haven’t thought of performances in any other way since!” View Rachel’s full profile

Watch: Rachel performs the Parish-Alvars Serenade.

Coleman Itzkoff, cello

Age: 25
School: Bachelor’s degree , Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music; master’s degree, University of Southern California
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Semi-Finals Selections: Bloch’s Schelomo; Barber’s Cello Concerto

“These pieces are two of the most powerful, dark, and complex pieces in the cello repertoire. They were written at the tail end of the two World Wars, and this tragedy permeates both pieces. I feel like feel like these composers are representing something beyond purely musical natures, imparting through their compositions a kind of wisdom, poetry, and vision of and for mankind.”

About Coleman: A self-proclaimed “orchestra brat,” Coleman’s parents were both professional musicians in his hometown of Cincinnati. “I began playing cello at the age of five,” he says. “I began by renting instruments, each cello getting bigger as I grew. Apparently I was a bit of a careless child and broke three of these cellos. They stopped renting to me after the fourth!” Broken cellos aside, Coleman is an active soloist as well as chamber musician. “From my family, I’ve learned my general love of music. I used to read string quartets in my living room with my friends and we would invite guests to our concerts. That sense of community instilled in me a deep appreciation and love of chamber music.” View Coleman’s full profile

Watch: Coleman performs the prelude from Bach’s 5th Cello Suite.

Lulu Liu, piano

Age: 23
School: Bachelor’s degree, Oberlin College; pursuing master’s degree, New England Conservatory
Chengdu, Szechuan, China
Semi-Finals Selections:
Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 2; G Minor and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

“At the opening of the Piano Concerto No. 2, Saint-Saëns wrote a very organ-like piano solo passage which brings a deep and fervent sound out of the piano. There are so many charming, sentimental, and playful moments. Of his five pieces for piano and orchestra, I think Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini is most special to me. I feel really connected to this piece, and I love it with all my heart.”

About Lulu: Lulu’s father was a professional violist, so naturally, Lulu started her music career on the viola. Her father was her first music teacher, and throughout her childhood, she was surrounded by music. “My dad organized a family recital every weekend where he would invite relatives over, and each person prepared a piece to perform. It could be solo, ensemble, or accompaniment of other instruments. I always accompanied my dad, and I’ve performed in front of others since I was a kid.”  View Lulu’s full profile

Playlist: Lulu recommends her top 5 songs! Trifonov/Philadelphia Rachmaninoff Paganini Rhapsody; Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper; City of Stars from La La Land; Goin’ Down by the Monkees; and Ma Vie, Ma Reves by Sheena Ringo

Sunho Song, clarinet

Age: 23
School: Received bachelor’s degree & pursuing master’s degree, the Juilliard School
Hometown: Bundang, South Korea
Semi-Finals Selections: Weber Clarinet Concerto No. 2; Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie

“I chose these pieces to explore a wide range of contrasting characters on the clarinet. The Weber is majestic, virtuosic, and at the same time full of drama, like an opera. Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie has a delicate and mysterious quality.”

About Sunho: “I started playing clarinet when I was 12,” he says. “I tried not to squeak! Although my parents are not professional musicians, my mother has always loved music and studied the piano and clarinet as a hobby. I learned how to love music from her.” In addition to his solo career, Sunho is interested in chamber and orchestral playing as well. He is a proponent of new music performance at Juilliard, where he performs contemporary music in the New Juilliard Ensemble and AXIOM. When he’s away from his clarinet, Sunho enjoys skiing, spending time with his family, and watching cooking videos to try out new recipes. View Sunho’s full profile

Playlist: Sunho’s favorite pieces are Bach’s Chaconne, Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, and Brahms’s Clarinet Sonatas 1 & 2.

Joseph Tkach, trumpet

Age: 21
School: Pursuing bachelor’s degree from Baylor
Leander, Texas
Semi-Finals Selections: Arutunian’s Trumpet Concerto; Tomasi’s Trumpet Concerto

“Ever since I first heard the Arutunian Trumpet Concerto, I’ve dreamed of performing it with a symphony orchestra.  It is such a romantic, mysterious, and programmatic piece, and to me it depicts strong imagery of some kind of heroic journey.  Tomasi makes a lot of bold statements in his concerto, especially in the beginning. It also has a certain sinister quality to it that is very dark and mysterious, yet so captivating.”

About Joseph: “I began playing the trumpet at the age of 11,” he says, “and I vividly remember playing Hey Jude at the annual sixth grade band concert.” From playing in his hometown to competing in the Fantini International Trumpet Competition in Rome this past year and as a Semi-Finalist in the Ima Hogg Competition, Joseph dedicates his success to his parents. “Although I am the only musician in my family, my parents have been extremely supportive in my growth as a trumpet player from the very beginning.” In addition to playing trumpet, Joseph is also a composer. View Joseph’s full profile

Listen: Joseph composed “Skylights” for brass quintet.

Chloe Tula, harp

Age: 24
School: Bachelor’s degree, Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music
Hometown: Hartford, Wisconsin
Semi-Finals Selections: Gliere’s Harp Concerto; Ginastera’s Harp Concerto

“I was first introduced to the Glière Harp Concerto by my high school harp teacher, Danis Kelly. She told me it was her favorite harp concerto, so of course I was determined to learn it. I really owe my harp career to her, so my performance of this piece (which she always said is ‘a good one to have in your back pocket!’) is dedicated to her. The Ginastera Harp Concerto is wild—I’d describe it as an action movie soundtrack. I was particularly inspired to take this concerto to the competition after a recent trip to South America, where hearing some of the same rhythms and harmonies in person helped me really understand this music’s volatility and excitement.”

About Chloe: “I started harp when I was 10,” Chloe says. Chloe says. “I remember seeing the harp as my ‘fun’ instrument compared to piano, which I also played. With the harp, I always felt like I could dress up in fun outfits for performances, which was a good incentive to keep at it!” But harp is hard work, of course: “When people think of the harp as a fluffy fantasy instrument, I always direct them to the Ginastera Harp Concerto, which is absolutely the opposite. Part of my goal as an orchestral musician and soloist is to challenge stereotypes, and this piece is the perfect vehicle for that.” View Chloe’s full profile

Playlist: Chloe shares her top 5 songs and pieces! Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want; St. Vincent, Strange Mercy; Beyoncé, Formation; Édith Piaf, La Vie en rose; John Adams, Harmonielehre

Andres Vela, double bass

Age: 21
School: Pursuing bachelor’s degree, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Edinburg, Texas
Semi-Finals Selections: Koussevitsky Double Bass Concerto Op. 3; Vanhal Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra

“I chose to play the Vanhal piece because while simple in its form, the articulations and musicality in it are so elegant. The lightness, modulations, melodic phrases, rhythmic ideas, and changes in mood and timbre are things that I love to bring out when I perform it. In the Koussevitsky concerto, the lyrical melodies, chromatic harmonies and technical challenges make the piece very complex. They give the performer the opportunity to bring out those characteristics with determination and passion.”

About Andres: He started playing the double bass at age 11. “I attended a recruitment concert by the middle school orchestra, and I saw the double bass,” Andres remembers. “I immediately thought, ‘I have to play that!’” He has performed the Vanhal once before, “with the Leipzig Academic Orchestra in Germany at the Gewandhaus Concert hall under the baton of Horst Forster.” He listed this as his most exciting musical moment. His favorite composer is Bach. He enjoys “playing and listening to all of his pieces, and the polyphony behind much of his music.” View Andres’s full profile

Watch: Andres performs Bach’s Fourth Cello Suite.

—Emma Wine

Hear all of these Semi-Finalists perform on May 30 at Stude Concert Hall at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music! Learn more.

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