Emerging artists in the spotlight

Youth competition winners will perform with the Ocala Symphony Orchestra on March 18-19, with a concurrent local artist exhibit to benefit the Reilly Arts Center.

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted March 10, 2023 | By Julie Garisto 

Julio Jay, viola player, senior division winner of the 2023 Ocala Symphony Orchestra’s youth competition, will perform at an orchestra concert March 18-19. [Supplied]

Budding musical talents and local visual artists join forces this month for a concert weekend at the Reilly Arts Center, demonstrating how mutually beneficial the two disciplines can be for one another. 

The Ocala Symphony Orchestra selected winners of its Young Artist Competition during an honors recital presented to the public on Jan. 14. 

Senior division winner Jay Julio, 25, and junior winner Isabelle Tseng, 17, dazzled audiences with their solos and will perform again in a showcase titled “Youthful Renderings” during the orchestra’s March 18 and 19 concerts, led by orchestra conductor and director Matthew Wardell. 

Tseng will perform “Tzigane” by Maurice Ravel and Julio will perform “Viola Concerto” by William Walton before Luciano Berio’s “Rendering” closes the Ocala Symphony Orchestra’s concert. 

From up the road in Gainesville, Tseng has played violin her entire young life, since she was 4, performing in numerous festivals including the BUTI Young Artists Orchestra, All-National Symphony Orchestra, and the Honor Orchestra of America. She won first prize at the New York International Young Musician Competition and top honors from the Florida Federation of Music Clubs, the Connie-Tuttle All-Performance award. 

As concertmaster of the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra, Tseng enjoys chamber music as well as her soloist projects. She is also an avid debater, composer, bike rider and journalist. 

In a recent Vimeo interview, Wardell asked Tseng what advice she’d give young musicians. 

“I feel like music is the best way to learn how to deal with failure and, in some regard, how to respond to it. At some point, you just start recording yourself and looking for your failures. I think that’s one part of it, and it’s a lifetime learning experience that I think is always great to have. But also, I think music in almost any context that I’ve ever seen is always worth it.” 

Tseng added that young people can benefit from the interpersonal experiences that come with the musician life. 

“Sometimes, it’s just communication with the people you’re playing with,” she said. “Or, sometimes it’s a communication with a composer that’s alive now, but it’s a way to kind of live in someone else’s shoes or to kind of expand our viewpoint and mindset a little bit to learn more about the world,” 

Isabelle Tseng, violin player, junior division winner of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra’s youth competition, also performs March 18-19. [Supplied]

Julio hails from Uniondale, New York. A first-generation Filipino- American, he began studying music formally at 14. Since then, the emerging classical musician has been recognized in national competitions held by the National Federation of Music Clubs, the Music Teachers National Association, and the YoungArts Foundation. 

“I love reading,” Julio said of his interests outside music. “I grew up being a bookworm. I read anything about science or other places. I love just learning more about the world, and I really do like exploring the outdoors. … I live in Manhattan, which is stereotypically a place that doesn’t have a lot of greenery, but uptown where I live, in Washington Heights, Inwood, these are actually very green spaces, and underratedly so. 

The viola player’s festival appearances include the Spoleto and Aspen Music Festivals and several others. He has a full scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School. 

As far as other highlights of the concert, Wardell noted how Berio uses fragments from Schubert’s incomplete 10th symphony as the structure and basis of the inventive “Rendering.” 

“Leaving Schubert’s original parts intact, Berio weaves them together with a harmonic and special texture that truly feels both a part of and something completely out of this world – you’re going to love it,” he said. 

Guests are encouraged to check out a complete art exhibit in the NOMA Black Box before the concerts on Saturday, March 18, and Sunday, March 19. 

All proceeds collected at an auction for the artist’s works — at 9:15 p.m. after the Saturday, March 18, concert — will go to the Reilly Arts Center. 

The exhibit features the works of three artists all profiled in previous issues of the “Ocala Gazette,” David Kellner and frequent collaborators Esta Mann and Rich Schleicher. The pieces that will be auctioned off are all created from vintage fruit crates with the objective of taking something ordinary and turning it into an installation of art and beauty—not unlike the discipline and training that transforms a young student into a masterful musician. 

Esta Mann, David Kellner and Rich Schleicher [Supplied]

Kellner donated his auction piece, “Uncrated,” to help the Reilly bolster young musicians and the arts. 

“Helping support a great nonprofit like the Reilly just secures more avenues for future artists and continues to grow my passion for making art,” he said. 

His muse for “Uncrated”: “I was inspired by the individual pieces of the crate. I wanted to show how its past functionality could be deconstructed, flipped, stripped and transformed into a modern art piece. We all see something different; that is the idea.” 

According to Schleicher, 30 percent of all sales are going to the Reilly Arts Center. Specifically, funds raised will go toward the scholarship program for the Community Music Conservatory. On Saturday, three specific items will be auctioned off. All of those sales’ proceeds go to the Reilly. 

“It always feels good to give back to the community,” Schleicher said. “The Reilly has spectacular events, and Ocala is truly lucky to have such a wonderful venue and talented performers and staff.” 

The “Youthful Renderings” concerts take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 19. Visit reillyartscenter.com for details. 

newspaper icon

Support community journalism

The first goal of the Ocala Gazette is to deliver trustworthy local journalism so corruption, misinformation and abuse are not hidden from the public or unchallenged.

We count on community support to continue this important work. Please donate or subscribe: