KINGSTON — When Wyoming Seminary senior Nathan Grabow makes his third attempt to win the senior division of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic 2016 Piano Competition finals on Sunday, he’ll do so while paying tribute to two of a master composer’s lesser known pieces.
Each young player comes to the first round of the competition armed with two compositions to play in front of a panel of three. And the 17-year-old from Lake Ariel brought Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 16 in G Major” and Frederic Chopin’s “Etude Op. 25, No. 11” to a recent preliminary performance for the competition.
“My teacher introduced them to me recently, and I think she feels like they’re sort of under appreciated, so she was saying you know go ahead and try it, see what they think,” said Grabow, a resident of Lake Ariel. “She thinks these have a sort of charm of their own.”
Grabow first entered the NEPA Philharmonic Piano Competition when he was 11, going on to win the junior division (for 7th, 8th and 9th-grade students). This year, he’s hoping the third time’s a charm as he attempts to win the senior division (for 10th, 11th and 12th-grade students) — he finished second in each of his first two attempts.
Before the young pianists chosen for the competition finals will take the Sordoni Theater stage at WVIA’s studio this coming Sunday, they had to take part in a preliminary round at Wyoming Seminary’s Kirby Center for Creative Arts on Saturday.
Five other senior division finalists moved on along with Grabow, while five in total will compete June 12 in the junior division, according to NEPA Philharmonic Executive Director Nancy Sanderson.
“I’m impressed with these young people,” Sanderson said. “It takes a great deal of poise and prep to do this. I never had it that together when I was their age. They’re incredible, it’s just an honor to work with them.”
The judges pick four to five finalists from each division to play in the final, with winners receiving $350 prizes. According to Patron Sales Manager Sandra Davis, senior division winners also get the opportunity to play with the philharmonic.
Grabow said the chance to play with professional musicians is important to him because the solo pianist route doesn’t afford him many chances to play collaboratively with other musicians.
Piano competition administrator Robert Henkelman said the competition was started in 2000 as a new venture to showcase young talent.
“It’s a place where all their hard work can come together,” Henkelmen said. “It’s a way for them to showcase how far they’ve come and it’s interesting to see some of the same names and see how they’ve grown in their accomplishments and it’s a good place for everyone for the community to see what kind of great young musicians we have.”