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Where are they now? A look back at festival New Young Artists performers

By APRILL BRANDON
June 8, 2010 at 1:08 a.m.


At noon Thursday, 2010 New Young Artists Erin English and Thales Smith will perform at First United Methodist Church.

English, a soprano, attends Texas State University and is a member of the Texas State Chorale. A 2007 graduate of Wharton High School, English has filled many leading roles in productions over her career, including "Beauty and the Beast" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

Smith is an 18-year-old classical guitarist that was honored as a 2008 Young Master by the Texas Commission on the Arts. He has been featured on National Public Radio's "From the Top" and won first prize for guitar at the 2009 American String Teachers Association Solo Competition. In 2006, he also won first place at the Guitar Foundation of America Youth Competition.

The concert is free and open to the public.

While the Victoria Bach Festival features world-class musicians from around the country, for years it has also given up-and-coming musicians a platform to perform.

The festival's annual New Young Artists concert showcases the talents of young musicians, ranging in age from high school to graduate school.

This year, in addition to the 2010 concert featuring soprano Erin English and guitarist Thales Smith on Thursday, nine New Young Artists alumni are returning to perform at the festival, managing director Nina Di Leo said.

So just what have these alumni been up to since their festival debut? For the majority of them, they have gone on to highly successful musical careers.

Take for instance, pianist Melissa Marse, who is the founder and artistic director of the Houston Chamber Music Society. In addition to being featured in multiple New York venues, such as Carnegie Hall, she also sings with Grammy-nominated vocal ensemble Conspirare. Marse will play a solo concert Friday evening featuring the work of Chopin.

Back in 1994, Rick Gabrillo was featured. That year, the singer had just moved from Boston to Austin to attend the University of Texas.

"To be so new to the area and to be given such a grand opportunity was very exciting," he said.

Since then, Gabrillo has led a busy and full career teaching in Austin, where his choir was honored by the Music Teacher's Association and being the choral director at St. Louis Catholic Church in Austin.

He was also recently selected from a national pool of directors as a conducting fellow for the Chorus America A Capella Masterclass in Houston, he said. He is also co-director of the Conspirare Youth Choirs.

"I'm so glad to know the New Young Artist program has continued to this day," he said. "I'm also glad to know how it has developed into a real showcase for all of these fine young musicians. An outlet to perform, to share their passion, is so important for younger artists."

After performing in 2004, Kathleen Ritch now splits her time between music and her other passion - cooking.

"I'm still singing but I'm fortunate enough that I'm also a personal chef. I love food and I've been doing this for the past few years," Ritch, who lives in Austin, said. "When a gig comes along I want to do, I do it and the rest of the time I'm cooking. I have the luxury to pick and choose."

Paul M. Tipton, who was featured in 2006, is now building a national freelance career as a classical concert artist and has sung at Carnegie Hall, as well as performed with some of the country's premier chamber ensembles, he said. Having just finished a Masters degree in Oratorio and Early Music at the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, in August he will move to Minneapolis, where he will base his national concert career, as well as join the roster of critically acclaimed vocal group The Rose Ensemble, he said.

Other former New Young Artists who are featured guests artists this year are Dann Coakwell, David Farwig, Carr Hornbuckle, Stephanie Moore and Lauren Snouffer.

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