Announcing the Winners of the 2018 VSA International Young Soloists Competition

This year marks the 34th 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 2018 award are: violinist Eva Casado Ariza, age 22; Dennis O’Keefe, a 25-year-old percussionist; 18-year-old cellist Madeline Sheard; and the Out of Time Barbershop Quartet.

A photo of Eva Casado Ariza, a young woman with short reddish brown hair holding a violinEva Casado Ariza, age 22, is a violinist and conductor of who was diagnosed at age 12 with post-viral Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Music, with concentrations in Violin Performance and Instrumental Conducting at the University of Florida. While working as a graduate assistant, Casado Ariza performs regularly as concertmaster, in the official quartet of the university, and as the assistant conductor of the University Orchestra. She aims to pursue a doctoral program to develop a brighter future for rising generations of young music students with disabilities.

A photo of Dennis O'Keefe, a young man with brown hair wearing a white collared shirt, dark suit jacket, and striped tieDennis O’Keefe, age 25, is a percussionist from Rochester, New York. He has performed across the Upstate Region of New York State and in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, including at the Kutztown Celebrate Marimba! Festival. Born autistic, O’Keefe received his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance in 2015 from the Ithaca College School of Music under the guidance of Gordon Stout and Conrad Alexander and his Master’s Degree in Music Performance in 2018 from the State University of New York at Fredonia under the guidance of Karolyn Stonefelt.

A photo of Madeline Sheard, a young woman with brown hair wearing a green print dress and holding a violinMadeline Sheard, age 18, studies cello with Mina Fisher and has won numerous competitions, including Schubert Club, Thursday Musical, and Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s MN Varsity Competition. Her solo engagements have included the LaCrosse Symphony Orchestra and the Salon se Lève Young Artist Concert Series. Sheard studies chamber music with the Artaria Chamber Music School and has attended summer festivals including Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine. She is principal cellist of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies and will tour internationally with them this summer. Sheard has a hearing loss and is grateful for the chance to share her music with others!

A photo of four young men standing in a row, wearing collared shirts, red suspenders, and red bow ties, smilingThe Out of Time Barbershop Quartet has been entertaining audiences in New York State’s Capital Region since 2016. Devin Canavally (lead), Burke Herrick (tenor), Christian Gomez (baritone), and Bobby Frazier (bass) are vocal performance majors attending the School of Music at Schenectady County Community College, part of the State University of New York. As members of the college a cappella club, the four friends decided to take their love for singing and entertaining to the next level. As a quartet, these singers have developed a classic and tightly harmonized sound, sharing their passion and excitement for barbershop music and bringing joy and inspiration to their listeners. Out of Time has been specially invited to perform for college functions, and has given concerts at Camphill Ghent in Chatham, Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia, and live on the air in the studio of the WGY radio station, along with churches and retirement centers in the community. In addition, each is a member of the SCCC School of Music’s select chorus, which recently performed with the Albany Symphony. In the summer of 2017, Burke Herrick, who has cerebral palsy and visual impairments, performed as an ensemble member in Porgy and Bess at the internationally acclaimed Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York.

These young artists will travel to Washington, D.C. for a performance on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on May 30, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public, and will be streamed live online at; a recording of the concert will be available for viewing after May 30 in the Millennium Stage online archive.


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