2022 Senior Concerto Competition Winners Impress Judges With Musicality and Creative Musical Interpretation

The annual Senior Concerto Competition provides Seniors at Andover with an opportunity to showcase their talent through a performance with the Phillips Academy Symphony or Chamber Orchestra. Vocalist Lauren Mahoney ’23 and violinists Derrick Seo ’23 and Kei Obata ’23 were recently announced as this year’s winners. Rebecca Plummer, one of the faculty judges of the competition, explained the level of musicianship exemplified by these performers.

“The winners are just exceptional musicians, they worked really, really hard at their craft, they just prepared and practiced so much and they just played and sang beautifully that day…. Their musicianship, their technique, the fact that even though I knew all the pieces that were played from the performers that won, they just brought some freshness, and some really creative ideas to their phrasing and their performances,” said Plummer.

Abbey Siegfried, Chair of the Music Department and coordinator of the Senior Concerto Competition, also expressed her thoughts on each of the winners and her anticipation of celebrating them through the course of this year.

“Kei Obata’s intonation and lyricism in the Mozart concerto were absolutely stunning. Lauren Mahoney’s stage presence, vocal range, and over-arching musicality from first moment to last of the Handel Arias totally impressed the judges. Derrick Seo’s emotive and deep musical interpretation of the Sibelius violin concerto almost brought one judge to tears,” wrote Siegfried in an email to The Phillipian.

Obata explained that though he was performing for a competition, his mindset to inspire his audience rather than impress them with technique was an important factor of his achievement. He further added that through his audition, he hoped to convey the joyful and carefree nature of Mozart in “Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major.”

“I was really focused on making the music come alive, and less with technique… I just had a lot of fun with it…. It’s an opportunity to inspire them because my first concert I ever went to I had a really bad day going into that concert, but after seeing the performer play beautiful chords and beautiful notes, my day just suddenly changed into a different kind of mindset. So I just want the audience to enjoy the performance and have fun with it,” said Obata.

Seo performed the first movement of “Violin Concerto in D Minor” by Jean Sibelius. He expressed that his choice of the piece was heavily due to his personal connection to Sibelius as a performer. Though Seo encountered several injuries during his preparation process and difficulties of learning a challenging piece, he described these setbacks as a part of a musician’s journey.

“For me, the concerto is an embodiment of Sibelius and his journey…. You can clearly hear the sadness, anger, and madness in the concerto. It’s known to have some of the most specific detailed markings a composer can write in their music. And for that, I grew an immense respect for Sibelius, so I chose this piece for the competition,” said Seo.

Mahoney, the only vocalist winner in recent years, explained how she hoped to channel the anger in Handel’s “Svegliatevi nel core” to her audience. Despite her challenges of singing the piece in Italian, she hoped that her voice still conveyed her emotions and her personal interpretation of the piece.

“Well the song is very dark, I’m playing this character who just witnessed his father dead, and he’s seeking vengeance on this killer, so I hope the audience can channel that anger with me and feel what I’m feeling as I’m performing…. I really hope the audience will take away the power and beauty of a voice over an orchestra,” said Mahoney.