Concerto-Aria competition Prepares Students for Performance 

By Alyssa Wilson ~ Editor-in-Chief 

From left to right, Isaac Howard, Alyssa Camejo, Caroline Gilmore, Monica Chisom, Lauren Moseley, Rick Smallshaw.

Photo of concerto-aria contestants taken by Chris Magee on Nov. 4, 2022. Retrieved by Alyssa Wilson on Nov. 7, 2022. 

Every year the Music Department at the University of Lynchburg hosts a concerto-aria competition for vocalists and instrumentalists to perform for a panel of judges, which prepares them for a future in the performing arts. 

This year’s competition was hosted on Friday, Nov. 4 and six students participated including three vocalists: Alyssa Camejo ’25 (soprano), Monica Chisom ’23 (mezzo-soprano) and Lauren Moseley ’24 (soprano), and three instrumentalists: Isaac Howard ’24 (trombone), Rick Smallshaw ’23 (viola) and Caroline Gilmore ’23 (trombone). 

The competition is open to any and all music students who are interested in performing, starting at the end of the previous semester. Students who performed in this year’s competition worked on their pieces from the end of the spring semester through the fall semester. 

The week leading up to the competition, however, demands lots of preparation and nerves according to Camejo. She said, “I’ve been really preparing since the start of the semester, and as for this week I’ve been sucking on lots of cough drops and just trying to rest my voice.” 

For both instrumentalists and vocalists, they must perform between seven and ten minutes of music. In the past this music was required to be memorized, but due to this being the first competition since COVID-19, organizer and associate professor of music, Dr. Chris Magee decided to change that this year. 

“We decided to waive that requirement, because they didn’t have as much time to prepare as they had in the past. We decided to make it optional but said that students who decide to memorize their music would get up to ten bonus points,” said Magee. 

This year’s competition was a year of firsts in more ways than one, as the organizers decided to add a third judge compared to the past where there had only been two judges. 

Typically there has been at least one instrumental judge and one vocal judge, however this year the committee brought on two instrumental judges. 

Vocal judge Peggy Haas Howell is the organist and choirmaster at St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Lynchburg. 

Haas Howell said, “I always enjoy hearing young performers.  They tend to have great enthusiasm, energy and dedication in their playing or singing. Preparing for a competition encourages a young musician to seek a high standard in his or her performance.” 

In the competition’s history, performers have never been competing for a prize, instead it is more about crafting performance skills. 

“Any performance opportunity is good for students. Performing is a skill unto itself; you’re dealing with nerves, stage fright, anything like that. Getting up and doing anything in front of an audience is stressful,” said Magee. 

Each student performed their music, and afterwards a reception was held with friends and family of performers while everyone awaited the score results. 

During the reception, Howard said, “The rule changed but allowed memorization to give up to 10 bonus points so I performed already and messed up a bit but hoping in total the bonus points are more than my mistakes. I hope to win but I want everyone to do well.” 

For instrumentalists, Howard was announced as runner-up and Smallshaw won first place. 

Smallshaw started playing the violin when he was in the first grade and then switched to the viola in eighth grade at which point he started receiving focused, classical training. 

“I felt proud of myself to have won and proud of the music department for fostering such a supportive and talented group of musicians,” said Smallshaw. 

For vocalists, Camejo was announced as runner-up and Moseley won first place. 

“My goal was to get up there, sing, and finally eat lunch so I was definitely surprised when Dr. Ramsey said I had won! Of the vocalists I was the only one to take my music on stage and I would have lost points for it. Needless to say, I didn’t expect second place, much less first,” said Moseley. 

Moseley is a Vocal Performance and Environmental science double major and grew up singing in choirs as well as performing in the occasional musical in her hometown of Lynchburg. 

Regardless of wins and losses within this competition, both judge Haas Howel and organizer Magee hope that students walked away with a new experience and more performance skills than they started with. 

The competition was streamed on YouTube and can be accessed here for anyone interested in hearing the performances.

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