This year marks the 31st anniversary of the VSA International Young Soloists Competition, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program that recognizes talented, emerging artists ages 14-25 with disabilities from all over the world. The four young musicians who have been named winners of the 2015 award are: harpist Sophie Graf, age 20, from San Diego, California; Alex Lee, a 20-year-old violist from Walnut Creek, California; 21-year-old saxophonist Jordan Lulloff of Okemos, Michigan; and Amar Moturu, a 15-year-old percussionist from Cypress, Texas.
Sophie Graf is a 20 year-old harpist from San Diego, California, studying harp performance at Duquesne University. Graf, who has epilepsy, has performed with a variety of regional and youth orchestras and currently performs as the principal harpist of Duquesne University’s Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra. She has won multiple solo competitions, including Duquesne University’s Concerto Competition and Women’s Advisory Board Scholarship, and the American Harp Society’s Anne Adams Award. In June 2015, Graf will attend the Texas Music Festival on a full tuition scholarship.
Alex Lee is a 20-year-old, award-winning violist from Walnut Creek, California. His accolades include awards from the Berkeley Junior Bach Festival and the Contra Costa String Association, along with invitations to study at Tanglewood Music Center and the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute. Lee, who has Asperger syndrome, attends California State University Fullerton, where he majors in Computer Science and Instrumental Performance, and is co-principal violist in their orchestra.
Saxophonist Jordan Lulloff, age 21, began playing in third grade and has had a passion for performing ever since. He has been a featured soloist with the United States Air Force Band, the University of Memphis Wind Ensemble, and the Lansing and Ann Arbor Community Concert Bands. This summer, the Okemos, Michigan native will perform a solo recital at the 17th World Saxophone Congress in Strasburg, France. Lulloff, who has celiac disease and dyslexia, attends Michigan State University.
Percussionist Amar Moturu, age 15, hails from Cypress, Texas. He is a member of the Houston Youth Symphony and has performed at Rice University and Jones Hall. Moturu, who has facial lymphatic malformation, has studied piano since age five and recently won an award for his solo marimba performance. In addition to excelling in music, he is also a multi-year state champion and national finalist in the You Be the Chemist competition.
These four young artists travel to Washington, D.C. for a professional development experience, including rehearsals, round table discussions with industry professionals, and private lessons with members of the National Symphony Orchestra. Their D.C. trip culminates with a cash award of $2,500 given to each winner and a performance on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on May 22 at 6:00 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public, and will be streamed live online at www.kennedy-center.org/millennium; a recording of the concert will be available for viewing after May 22 in the Millennium Stage online archive.