BEAVERCREEK — Sofia Geelhood didn’t think she would make the finals.
Julianna Baldwin entered figuring she wouldn’t place at all.
Turns out they were both wrong and they’re not complaining one bit.
Geelhood, a homeschool senior in Beavercreek, was the winner of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2020 David L. Pierson Young Musicians’ Competition, while Baldwin, a senior at Beavercreek High School, was second in her first and only appearance in the annual contest. The competition is open to students in grades 10-12 who are members of their high school’s band and/or orchestra. They prepare a concerto for their audition, and the winner earns the opportunity to perform their concerto with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Fifteen entered this year.
“I definitely didn’t expect to win,” Geelhood, a flautist, said. “I didn’t even expect to be a finalist and I was very happy when that happened. I just didn’t think my performance was quite good enough. There were a lot of mistakes. Once you’ve spent a lot of time with a piece of music and you know it backwards and forwards … I knew how it wasn’t quite up to that standard.”
Geelhood — who finished third last year — played the third movement of Jacques Ibert’s “Flute Concerto.”
“The piece that I chose (last year) was more classical, more from the classical era, more structured, and inside the box type of thing,” she said. “I wanted something more modern that I be more dramatic with but not something so weird that people would not be able to relate to it.”
Baldwin said she wasn’t “disappointed at all” finishing second.
“When I found out I was a finalist, first of all my heart kind of stopped,” she said. “It was really surprising to me. I didn’t even enter it thinking I was going to place at all. So I was really surprised and happy. I knew a few friends of mine had entered it before and said it was really fun and they encouraged me and so did my teachers. I’m always trying to get involved in music … in any way I can.”
Baldwin, a clarinetist, played Bela Kovacs’ “Sholem Alekhem, Rov Feidman!”
A clarinet-friendly Klezmer piece (Klezmer is a musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe), Baldwin said she chose it because it’s a different genre of music to play.
“I wanted to challenge myself,” she said. “My way of playing is I typically don’t like playing standards and normal things.”
It’s a good thing neither of them like normal, inside the box because this year’s competition was anything but that. Entries were done via video instead of in person due to COVID-19 restrictions. A video of at least three minutes and no longer than eight had to be submitted and the video could not be edited.
That presented both girls with pros and cons.
“A live audience is definitely good because that just helps you add energy to your playing,” Geelhood said. “Also with the recordings, by the time I was done recording, I was exhausted. It’s a long piece. After playing through it three times, my mouth was very tired. (But) it was also nice knowing that I could get a redo.”
Baldwin said recording the entry took away nerves.
“You have the ability to do more than one take,” she said. “(And) it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be representative of how you play.”
Baldwin spent an hour or two each day practicing the piece, which had to be played without a music sheet.
“I’m pretty good at memory,” she said. “It was a whole new level of memorization with all the nuances and subtle things that go into Klezmer. A lot more time went into that than preparing my college audition pieces, which I’m starting to work on now.”
Geelhood started working on her piece in January, anticipating a late spring performance, as in the the past.
“It was kind of hard because I had been ready to perform in May and then the deadline kept getting pushed back and pushed back,” she said. “(But) it was a good thing that I had more time to work on the details.”
Both plan to make music part of their college studies. Geelhood said she would love to play with an orchestra some day.
Baldwin said music performance will be one of her majors.
“What I do depends on what school I get into and choose to go,” she said.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.