2023 Soloists

Featured Soloist: Lucie Kim, piano

My Melodic Inspiration

Lucie Kim (Orange County School of the Arts, 11th grade, 2022-23)

I have been drawn to music and the piano since early childhood. I grew up playing the baby grand piano in my grandparent’s house. As a toddler, I preferred banging at the keys with my sticky palms over playing with toys. An early music memory I have is of a four year old me discovering a man performing on a grand piano in the middle of Nordstrom. I stood mesmerized, hoping one day I could play and perform for people as he was. It was from that point on that I would always look for music everywhere I went. I began to take lessons and study piano, and made my Carnegie Hall debut at age 9. 

I have had the opportunity to participate in numerous international competitions and grow as a pianist on my musical journey. I have received First Prize at the San Jose International Piano Competition, First Prize at the Steinway Junior Piano Competition, First Prize at the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, First Prize at the Piano Star International Competition, and am also a Silver Medalist at the quadrennial Palm Springs International Junior Solo Piano Competition. This past year, I had the honor of being named OC Register’s Artist of the Year in the Instrumental Category. 

As a musician, I also look for ways to deepen my engagement with music beyond the realm of piano competitions, and explore new avenues of musical expression. I gave a Tedx Talk titled “Music Begins with a New Breath,” where I discuss how breathing affects music performance, and can influence the quality, mood and level of audience engagement. It was amazing to be able to share my insights with the world and explore the intersection of music, science, and the human experience.

In addition to my solo studies, I enjoy collaborating with other musicians. I have had the privilege of performing with the Vicente Chamber Orchestra, Southern California Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the OCSA Symphony Orchestra. I am also an active chamber musician, and recently won First Prize at the MTAC VOCE State Competition with my trio. Whether I am performing solo, with other musicians, or sharing my insights with a wider audience, I am committed to exploring the power and potential of music in all its forms.

I would like to thank the Performer Selection Committee for this incredible opportunity to perform with the LAYPO, my teachers Ariel Yang and Ethan Dong, as well as my parents and grandparents. I am so fortunate to receive their love and support, and would not be the person I am today without them. 

I hope that my future experiences solidify my belief that music can bring joy, peace, and hope for humanity. I want to grow up to be a world citizen and use my music to make the world a better place to live. I hope to pursue a dual degree program and continue my musical studies after high school, and bring people together through the beautiful language of music.

Featured Soloist: Jackie Mancera, piano

A Musical Journey

Jacqueline Mancera (South Pasadena High School, 12th grade, 2022-23)

Music, and piano in particular, has always been a big part of my life. I’ve been playing piano since I was four, and it’s been quite the journey. From Czerny and Sonatinas to rhapsodies and piano concertos, each step has taught me so much about the value of self-expression and dedication. Along the way I’ve had many opportunities to perform, from low-key studio recitals to festivals, honors recitals, and competitions (such as SYMF). One of my favorite piano experiences was a master class I attended in 2017, taught by Dr. Stephen Pierce.

Previously, most of my pieces have been solo pieces, but this year I had the opportunity to play with my high school’s symphonic and concert bands, which was a lot of fun! I experienced the joys of playing with a large group of people, and I learned a lot about teamwork and musical balance. Now I’m excited to perform with another amazing group of musicians: the LAYPO! I can’t believe that my dream of playing a piano concerto with an orchestra is about to come true.

As I move forward with my music journey, I’m hoping to join a chamber music group so I can continue sharing music with others. I am also planning on minoring in music in college. I am so grateful for everyone who has supported my love for music. First and foremost, I am grateful to my piano teacher, Dr. Grace Xia Zhao, who has been teaching me since I started playing piano. Thank you, Dr. Grace, for always believing in my musical ability, for patiently correcting my appalling fingerings, for teaching me to find the stories in music, and most importantly, for sharing your unbridled enthusiasm about music with me. I am also grateful for my parents, who have supported all of my musical endeavors, and my neighbors, who tolerate my loud wrong notes on a daily basis. Finally, I am grateful to the LAYPO, who have given me the amazing opportunity to play with them.

Featured Soloist: Ashlyn Bendorf, piano

My Musical Journey

Ashlyn Bendorf (Homeschool, graduated, in 2022-23 school year)

Throughout my entire life I have always loved music. Since the age of four, I have been playing piano, with my parents as my first teachers. Slowly, but surely, I have progressed in my musical journey, and my first major accomplishment was my solo recital in 2016 at age 10. Besides performing for larger audiences, I also love entering competitions where a small audience, or a few judges, can listen. Some examples of this would be level testing with Student Evaluations, RCM testing, Honors competition, Romantic Festival, and Piano Auditions. I learned to study music theory while participating in the testing, as well as prepare and memorize my pieces well.

One of my favorite festivals to enter was the Southern California Junior Bach Festival. Hearing all of the wonderful Bach pieces played by so many talented kids was truly a joy. Also, multiple winners were chosen, taking some of the pressure off.

In October of 2020, my family moved to Boise, Idaho. At first, I wasn’t sure if my musical journey would be drastically different, or unenjoyable because I wasn’t in the same physical location. However, when I switched to a new piano teacher, Dr. Del Parkinson, I soon realized that I could still enjoy music the same – if not even more. I absolutely love studying with Dr. Parkinson; he is so easy to understand, but pushes me to play and perform better than ever.

My favorite things to do regarding music are playing chamber music, entering festivals, and participating in competitions. Playing chamber music has long been one of my favorite things to do. Since the time I was little, playing duets with my parents has always been special; those times are some of my most cherished memories. Since then, I have played in multiple trios, and also played clarinet in my (then) local youth orchestra. I love performing. Any chance I get, I love to play for anyone who will enjoy the art of music. Whether listening to it, or playing it, music has always been a part of my life, and it always will be, no matter what. 

I have recently graduated high school and will be going to Boise State University to study piano performance under Dr. Del Parkinson. Most recently, I was awarded the Stillman Kelley NFMC Western Regional Award for 2023, as well as the IFMC Wilson Memorial Award. Later on in my college career, I might add a minor in the science field, such as physics or radiology. I am looking forward to continuing my musical journey and hope to bless people in the meantime.

Featured Soloist: Sophie O’Shea, soprano

Finding Joy

Sophie O’Shea (Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, 11th grade, 2022-23)

From a young age, even before I could talk, singing held a special place in my heart. Growing up, my parents always had music playing in our home, or in the car on the way to school, exposing me to various genres and artists. This early exposure sparked a deep interest and appreciation of music for me. While no one in my family was particularly musically inclined, my parents encouraged me to explore different instruments and musical styles.

It was through this exploration that I first discovered the violin. Being of Irish, Ukrainian, and Jewish descent, I found a strong connection to the violin’s presence in the folk music of these cultures. At the age of seven, I began my classical violin training, later expanding my repertoire to include klezmer and Irish fiddle. The violin became a way for me to embrace and celebrate my cultural identity. 

In addition to my instrumental journey, I found my passion for singing when I joined the South Bay Children’s Choir in 2013. This choir became a significant part of my musical growth, allowing me to discover the joy and expressiveness of using my voice. In 2020, I became a member of their advanced group, Bel Canto.

As my love for singing grew, I sought opportunities to further develop my vocal skills. In 2021, I had the privilege of participating in the California Choral Directors’ Association All-State Honor Choir. The following year, I joined the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic Honor Choir and the Southern California Vocal Association Honor Choir. All of these experiences allowed for me to work with amazing conductors, musicians, and other students and to further expand my musical knowledge. 

In 2022, I had the honor of performing in the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic Concert Series 1 and 3 and additionally, I won first place in the senior vocal category of the Music Teachers’ Association of California South Bay Scholarship Competition. 

While I continue to explore my musical journey, I found much joy in teaching young aspiring singers and helping them achieve their dreams.  

As I approach my graduation, I am determined to pursue music in college and hope to combine my joy of singing with teaching. I am grateful to my teachers, choir directors, friends, and especially my parents for their unwavering support throughout my musical journey. Their encouragement has fueled my passion and belief in the power of music.

Featured Soloist: Cadence McMillan, trumpet

My Musical Roots

Cadence McMillan (Stockdale High School, 11th grade, 2022-23)

Since I was in the 3rd grade, I have loved playing the trumpet. My inspiration to want to learn the trumpet came from my father, who has grown up playing trumpet, guitar, and various other instruments. Starting off, I was inspired by my dad and wanted to follow in his footsteps, but later I realized how passionate I am about playing the trumpet and how happy it made me. As I went into high school, I quickly found that I love playing trumpet not only in concert band and jazz band, but also in marching band and orchestra. In some ways, I rediscovered my love for making music.

During elementary school, I joined the school’s beginning concert band and began taking lessons. In 5th grade, I started to take lessons with Brent Williams, who provided me with most of the knowledge that I have today. Throughout my junior high school years, I was a part of Wind ensemble and Jazz band but I started to experience improvisation soloing in jazz bands, which helped me to be comfortable soloing in front of audiences. Throughout this time, I began playing in my church’s orchestra every Sunday. Since freshman year, I have been a part of my school’s Wind Ensemble, Jazz, and Marching band and it has grown my love for music. In 2022, I began taking lessons with Jennifer Marotta, who has taught me many trumpet skills. At the beginning of my junior year of highschool, I resumed taking lessons with Mr. Williams, and I am continuing to learn more from him presently. Throughout my junior year of high school my love for music increased, as I was a part of my school’s marching, concert, jazz band and the indoor marching percussion on the cymbal line. I started seeking out more opportunities to play with other talented musicians. I love being able to play with other people who are as passionate about music as I am and who love to create art in the form of music. 

In 2016, I tried out for the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association, and was accepted into one of the honor groups. This experience was impactful to me because it allowed me to acquire musical knowledge about playing together as a whole band. In 2019, I tried out for California All State Music Educators Conference, and was accepted and placed into the Junior High Concert Band. I tried out for Kern County Honor Band in 2021, and got into the band as first chair. This helped motivate me to practice more so that I could refine my skills as a musician, and is what made me become more serious about my musical journey. In 2022, I auditioned for Kern County Honor Band, and was placed into the Kern County Honor Orchestra as first chair, and also auditioned for California All State Music Educators Conference, and was placed into the High School Wind Symphony. The other trumpet players inspired me to work towards becoming a better trumpet player and enhance my skills. In March of 2023, I auditioned for Kern County Honor Jazz Band and I was awarded second chair. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more fundamentals of jazz. In addition, I became more comfortable playing solos and being more confident as a musician. These experiences taught me many musical skills and brought me friendships with people who love making music. In the future, my plan is to double major in both music performance and psychology.  

I’m extremely thankful to the Performer Selection Committee for giving me this opportunity to be a soloist, and I’m thankful to God, my parents, loved ones, friends, previous teachers, Gary Scudder, Scott Cross, and Gemalene Acupan, and thankful for my current teachers, Brent Williams, Jennifer Marotta, Geoffry Ruud, Amanda Sproul, and Ari Micich, for allowing me to pursue my passion for music and for always supporting me. 

Featured Soloist: Joseph Tyler, trumpet

Joseph Tyler (Poway High School, 11th grade, 2022-23)

I started playing in 5th grade in my school bands and have loved gradually getting better on the instrument. Trumpet has always been a fun thing to focus on in my free time. Trumpet, just like any other instrument, is hard to learn and get better. By following through with this instrument I believe it has changed me for the better. From playing when I do not want to and keeping persistence over long periods of time I have developed some skills that will help later in life no matter what I do, I am sure that any other musician that you talk to can attest to this sentiment. I am also extremely grateful for the musical experiences I have been able to have that I know have helped me significantly. I have also been blessed to have an abundance of professionals help me get to where I am. The manpower that has been put into music education will continue to shock me. I have benefited a lot from so many professionals and people passionate about music that are willing to accept and teach me. 

A few of these people and groups that have supported me are the Civic Youth Orchestra, Young Lions Jazz Orchestra and all of the directors and bands in Poway High School and Twin Middle School. My teacher, Tim Saeger, has played a very important role in my growth by inciting continued pursuit to improvement, no matter how small or minute. He has also helped me keep my passion over rough times like Covid when I was not able to play with anyone else. All of these programs have helped so much, there is simply no way I would be anywhere near where I am right now if it was not for them. My parents are the most influential in keeping my continued interest in music. They have helped so much from daily affirmations, paying for all of these wonderful organizations. Their belief in me is simply incredible, I am forever grateful. 

I wish to continue pursuing music after High School and hopefully play professionally for a living. This is clearly not a prospect that is guaranteed but I would be honored if it was to happen. I want to express my gratitude once again to everyone that has helped me get to where I am today. I wish for the best in the future.