Three semi-finalists perform in Rotary Club competition, Choi advances

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Jessica Lu, spotlight editor

In the Beverly Hills Rotary Club 2014 Music Awards Competition sophomore Julia Choi will represent Beverly Hills High School at the district-wide competition held on Mar. 1 at Loyola Marymount University.

“I feel very happy to be selected,” Choi said. “I feel rewarded for my hard work, and I am more motivated to do well on my next competition against other districts. I will do my best to represent Beverly Hills.”

The selection process began with 16 instrumentalists and vocalists auditioning at the high school. Choi, senior Matthew Shterenberg and sophomore Scott Senior advanced for their solos and received a $300 scholarship from the Rotary Club. Band Director Bill Bradbury added sophomore Stephan Kim to the roster as part of a jazz combo, following Music Competition Chair Wanda Presburger’s request.

“As soon as I received the application form, I wanted to try it out because I have participated in other music competitions before, so I thought it would be a good opportunity,” Choi said. “When I received the email that I was one of the three finalists, I was very happy and felt honored.”

Choi played Franz Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3 on piano, a song she was comfortable with before invited to audition.

Senior was selected for singing “If I Can’t Love Her,” a track from Beauty and the Beast.

“I thought [auditioning] was a great opportunity for me, because I’m really interested in music,” he said. “I was almost a tiny bit surprised [to be selected] because…there was such a broad spectrum of talent.”

Shterenberg, on the drums, performed a drum solo he transcribed from Jeff Hamilton’s rendition of “Sing Sing Sing.”

“When I got the email that I was one of the three selected, I was shocked. It is one of those pieces that someone will either get or won’t get at all, and obviously [the judges] got it,” Shterenberg said.

The three musicians and Kim performed at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday, Feb. 3, for a Rotary Club luncheon in the next step of the competition. The soloists first performed their respective pieces.

“I was very nervous before I performed because I was the first person to play,” Choi said.

Despite her apprehension, Shterenberg said that Choi’s performance created the experience of “hearing a grand story unfold.”

“She executed it perfectly because she truly conveyed the message the composer was trying to get through,” he said.

Senior recalled listening to Choi’s playing and attempting to calm his nerves just before his own performance.

“I was just sitting there, trying to listen to her play and trying to calm myself down, as [Liebestraum No. 3] is one of my favorite pieces,” he said. “When I went up, I was even more nervous. [But] I just sing and everything goes well, and I thought I did a pretty decent job.”

Choi described Senior’s performance as “really amazing” and Shterenberg recalled being “floored by how good it was.”

Shterenberg, though unable to perform his solo due to time restrictions, played the drums as part of a jazz quartet with Choi on piano, Senior on alto saxophone and Kim on bass in Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.”

“I took a solo during the song, and people were really into it,” Shterenberg said. “There was definitely some head-bobbing happening.”

Kim echoed Shtrerenberg’s sentiments about their performance.

“There was a sense of excitement because I got to play at quite a prestigious event,” Kim said. “We all had a feel for the song, so we knew what to play and when to play. I felt that there was a balance between all the instruments.”

The performers were invited to stay for the remainder of the event, an experience Choi enjoyed.

“The luncheon was great,” she said. “The food was amazing, and the service was fantastic as well. Everything looked really pretty and fancy.”

For now, Choi is preparing for the district-wide competition in March.

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