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The Top Three Finalists of the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Violin Competition Perform with The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall on Friday, August 19

Aug 18, 2011

The top three finalists of the 2011 Cooper International Violin Competition have been selected to advance to the concerto finals round with The Cleveland Orchestra on Friday, August 19.

Sirena Huang, 17, from South Windsor, Connecticut; Laura Park, 17, from Des Plaines, Illinois; and Alexandra Switala, 17, from Grapevine, Texas, were chosen Wednesday, August 17, at the conclusion of the competition’s recital finals round at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. After nearly a week of intense competition among an original pool of 24 young violinists, the three finalists will perform their full concerti Friday night with The Cleveland Orchestra, Jahja Ling conducting. The concert will be held in Severance Hall at 8 p.m. and broadcast live on 104.9-FM WCLV, with a simulcast at For tickets call 800-686-1141 or visit

The first-prize winner will take home $10,000, one of the largest awards offered by an international youth competition, and will also receive concert engagements with orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai, China. In addition, the top three finalists will be awarded full, four-year scholarships to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, pending admission, that are valued at more than $150,000 each. The second-prize winner will receive $6,000; the cash award for the third-prize winner is $3,000.

Friday's audience will hear Alexandra Switala perform Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63; followed by Sirena Huang (also the winner of Wednesday night’s Audience Favorite award, a $500 cash prize), who will play Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64. Following intermission, Laura Park will present Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47. The concert will conclude with the announcement of the winners and prize ceremony.

At the Wednesday night recital finals round, Alexandra Switala performed the Allegro movement from J.S. Bach’s Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 1003; the Adagio movement from Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219; and Wieniawski’s Faust Fantasy, Op. 20. Sirena Huang’s performance on Wednesday featured the Allegro assai movement from Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 in G, Op. 30, No. 3; Bloch’s Nigun (Improvisation) from Baal Shem Suite; Paganini’s Caprice No. 1; and Ravel’s Tzigane. Laura Park performed the Siciliano and Presto movements of Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001; Paganini’s Caprice No. 24; Schoenberg’s Phantasy, Op. 47; and Saint-Saëns/ Ysaÿe’s Caprice After the Study in the Form of a Waltz, Op. 52, No. 6.

The remaining finalists from Wednesday night’s performance each received $1,000. They are fourth-prize winner Mayumi Kanagawa, 16, from Japan; Gergana Haralampieva, 17, from Bulgaria, who won fifth prize; and Kelly Talim, 15, from Japan, who won sixth prize.

The six young musicians were adjudicated by a world-renowned panel of violinists, including Gregory Fulkerson, from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and chairman of the jury for the 2011 Cooper International Violin Competition; David Bowlin, assistant professor of violin at Oberlin and founding member of the International Contemporary Ensemble; David Cerone, former president of the Cleveland Institute of Music; Tong Weidong, director of violin studies at the Central Conservatory Middle School in Beijing; Almita Vamos, professor of violin at Northwestern University and the Music Institute of Chicago; and Milan Vitek, professor of violin at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

The Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition is sponsored by Thomas Cooper, a 1978 Oberlin College graduate and a member of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, and his wife, Evon, an accomplished pianist and private piano teacher. The two reside in a suburb of Boston. The Cooper Competition is a co-presentation of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Orchestra.

Alexandra Switala, 17, began studying the violin at age 4 in her hometown of Grapevine, Texas. She is a scholarship recipient at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy program, where she studies with Roland and Almita Vamos. Her previous instructors include Jan Mark Sloman of the Dallas Symphony and Catherine Cho of the Juilliard School.

As a participant in festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, Perlman Music Program, and National Arts Centre Young Artists’ Program in Ottawa, Canada, Switala has studied intensely with renowned musicians such as Itzhak Perlman, Nicholas Mann, Masao Kawasaki, and Pinchas Zukerman. She has also had the honor of playing in master classes for Pamela Frank, Ida Kavafian, Midori, and Joel Smirnoff.

Switala has been a soloist with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in Texas and the Ars Viva Symphony in Chicago, and she has appeared on the PBS program From the Top at Carnegie Hall, as well as on NPR’s Performance Today. As the junior winner of the 2011 Sphinx Competition, Switala will make solo appearances with orchestras nationwide, including the New World Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, and Ann Arbor Symphony.

In her free time, Switala enjoys reading, exploring modern art museums, taking instant photos, and listening to opera.

Sirena Huang
Praised by the Hartford Courant as “the first real virtuoso from the text-message age,” violinist Sirena Huang is the First Prize Gold Medalist of the 2009 International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians. Huang made her solo orchestral debut with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra at age 9. Since then, she has performed in 11 countries across three continents and has been featured as a soloist with more than 35 orchestras. Winner of the 2008 Violin Concerto Competition at the Aspen Music Festival, she received rave reviews for her 2010 performance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Since 2003, Huang has been selected three times as the youngest of 10 Exceptional Young Artists worldwide at the Starling-DeLay Symposium for Violin Study at Juilliard School. Additionally, Huang was invited by Elie Wiesel to perform during the ceremony in which the annual Humanitarian Award was presented to President Sarkozy of France. In June 2006, she performed for His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan and 30 other Nobel Prize Laureates at the World Peace Conference in Petra, Jordan.

Huang currently studies with Stephen Clapp and Sylvia Rosenberg at the Juilliard School Pre-College Division. Previous teachers include David Cerone and Robert Lipsett. Huang has been involved in various charities both locally and nationally, including World Vision, Japan Earthquake Relief and Fund for Access in Connecticut.

Laura Park
Seventeen-year-old Laura Park has studied the violin since age 5. A scholarship recipient at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Senior Academy, she studies with Almita Vamos, Roland Vamos, and Marko Dreher.

Park has captured top prizes in numerous competitions. In addition to winning the Walgreens National Concerto Competition three times, she has won first prize in the Union League Civic and Arts Scholarship Auditions, Arthur D. Montzka Young Artists Concerto Competition, Music Teachers National Association Illinois String Division (MTNA), Harper Young Artist Competition, DePaul Concerto Competition, Society of American Musicians Competition, Sejong Music Competition, and Confucius Competition. A recipient of the Farwell Trust Award from the Musicians Club of Women Scholarship Auditions, Park was awarded Fourth Prize in the Lipizer International Violin Competition, held in Gorizia, Italy, in addition to receiving the Special Prize for her “strong artistic temperament.”

Park made her debut performance on the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage during the National Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Music Institute. Solo engagements include the Orchestra Filarmonica “Paul Constantinescu” Di Ploiesti Romania under Maestro Ovidiu Balan, Oistrakh Orchestra, North Suburban Symphony Orchestra, Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Harper Symphony Orchestra, Fremd Symphony Orchestra, and Midwest Young Artist Orchestra. She has also performed on From the Top and in the Young Steinway Concert Series, and has been featured on Chicago’s WFMT Introductions, ABC7Chicago, and Vermont Public Television.

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