The Penfield Symphony Orchestra, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enriching the Rochester community for over 60 years, has held an annual competition for high school instrumentalists from the nine-county Rochester area since 1982.
The top three finalists receive a cash award and the winner performs as a soloist with the PSO. Winners who are pianists also receive a cash award from the Raymond A. Santirocco Memorial Piano Fund. The competition was named in 2002 the “Jo Amish Young Artist Competition” in recognition of a long-time violinist and early member of the PSO. Her five children established an endowment to provide funds designated for the annual awards. Through this competition, the PSO and the Amish and Santirocco families hope to foster in young artists a love and appreciation for live symphonic music now and into the future.
Raymond Feng earned first place. Feng, 17, a senior at Pittsford Sutherland High School, was a top prizewinner of international and national competitions since age 9, such as the Thousand Islands Chopin International, David D. Dubois Piano Competition, Claudette Sorel Piano Competition, Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition, MostArtsPiano Competition and MTNA Eastern Division Junior Piano Performance, among others.
As a piano soloist, Feng made his orchestral debut at age 11 and since has collaborated with symphony orchestras nationwide. His concerto performance with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra was broadcast on NPR’s “From the Top.” Feng was selected as one of eight 2016-2018 Young Scholars worldwide and has been engaged in community outreach activities. He was invited to perform at the 2018 Grammy Salute to Classical Music concert in honor of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday. Feng is also the concertmaster and a former conductor apprentice of the Hochstein Youth Symphony Orchestra. He studies piano with Elier Suarez and violin with Nancy Hunt. On May 6, Feng will perform the first movement of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major with the PSO.
Jonathan Runion earned second place. Runion is a senior at the Charles Finney School. He is a trumpet student in the studio of Wesley Nance. He is a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, the ECMS Trumpet Ensemble and is a past member of the Hochstein Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Csehy Summer School of Music Orchestra. At the Csehy Summer School of Music, he has received numerous Awards of Honor and received the Harold McNeill Band Award in 2016. At the Charles Finney School, Runion serves as the Music Intern, where he arranges music, helps lead classes and occasionally conducts the orchestra. Runion serves as the director of his church’s bell choir, where for the past three years he has arranged music for and conducted this bell choir, performing numerous times throughout the year. Runion plans on majoring in trumpet performance in college.
Noah Lee earned third place. Lee, 16, is a junior at The Harley School and plans to study pre-med and music in college. He studies piano with Jacob Ertl at the Nazareth Community Music Program. He has won several awards in piano and recently performed the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra at Kodak Hall. Also a skilled violinist, Lee studies with Professor Renée Jolles at the Eastman Community Music School. He was the concertmaster for the 2018 NYSSMA All-State String Orchestra. Lee directs the Forget-Me-Not Family Ensemble, which performs for nursing homes, rehab centers and hospitals. The group has performed over 80 concerts in the U.S. and South Korea. At Harley, he is a member of the student council and Biomimicry squad and is vice president of the Tri-M Music Honor Society.
Directed by David Harman since 2000, this 90-piece orchestra enriches the community by providing fine music and a setting where both amateur and professional musicians perform a variety of classical music. Visit penfieldsymphony.org for information on concerts and highlights.