Discovering something before the world does can create a long-term thrill. Seeing Tiger Woods golf at age 6. Watching Tom Cruise in a fourth-grade school play. Listening to Taylor Swift warbling as a 14-year-old.

Such experiences deepen as the years roll by because one couldn’t have known what the future held for those young phenoms.

On Feb. 17 residents throughout the Piedmont will have an opportunity to bank an experience they, too, may look back on in the years ahead. Three talented student musicians will be performing in the Young People’s Concert at the Highland Center for the Arts.

The concert is one of many programs sponsored by the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra. Founded in 1996 as the Piedmont Regional Orchestra by Conductor Emeritus Michael A. Hughes, it performs in the Rice Theater at the Highland Center for the Arts.

Dozens of musical performances have been held over the last two decades providing a legion of music lovers a wide variety of entertainment. Think of it as the “Piedmont Kennedy Center.”

Glenn Quader is the music director and conductor and has worked over the past 13 years to build paid membership, strengthen volunteer participation and collaborate with a host of local art organizations to further the goals of the PSO.

Cooper Wright, former president of the PSO board of directors, said, “In 2001 the symphony decided to begin its young artist competition. It provides students throughout the region the opportunity to compete for scholarship prizes.

“The program works by students wishing to compete submitting a piece of their music on CD. We have a panel of judges that review their submittals and then they select the top three.”

The young talent is drawn from 11 counties in the Piedmont region. This year, six finalists performed before a panel of music experts who then selected the final three who will perform in February.

Each young musician plays a separate piece during the first half of the performance. Then a panel of judges experienced in working with young people huddle and select the third-, second- and first-place winners.

At the conclusion of the second half the show, the master of ceremonies announces the winners. The scholarships provide $1,500, $750 and $500 checks for college studies. Since the program began in 2001, more than $40,000 has been contributed to talented local students’ educations.

This year the “Grand Canyon Suite” by Ferde Grofé will be the featured performance.

In addition to the music, student artists will be selected to have their art projected on a screen during the concert, enlivening the show with visual themes drawn from the symphony. The multimedia effect heightens the audience’s enjoyment of the orchestral piece.  

The opportunity for these young musicians to play alongside accomplished members of the PSO broadens their experience of performing in a live concert setting.

The talent

This year’s three young musicians hail from Gainesville, King George, and Fauquier County. Here’s a peek at the talent you’ll be missing if you don’t score tickets for this upcoming concert:

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Pianist Thomas Se-Roam Kim is a freshman at Battlefield High School.

Thomas Se-Roam Kim

Thomas Se-Roam Kim is a freshman at Battlefield High School in Prince William County. He began his piano studies at age 7 under MiHyang Joo at her home studio in Centreville.

Kim started off last season with a first-place win at the 2018 Asian American Music Society International Piano Competition. He has won all three of its divisions (Peewee 2014, Junior 2017, Senior 2018). His accomplishments were acknowledged during the winner's concert and was gifted the audience award. This is his second year returning as the PSO Young Artist Concerto Competition finalist. 

Kim was the first-prize winner of 2018 James A. Bland Music Competition at the club, regional, and at district levels. He advanced to the state finals representing district 24-A, where he finished second place. He also finished in second place at the 2018 William Knabe International Young Artist Piano Competition. 

Kim has won various competitions including the 2018 East Carolina Young Artist Piano Competition, the 2016 and 2018 Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association Piano Achievement Awards, the 2016 and 2017 Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association, Robert Spencer Piano Concerto Competition, and the 2017 Richmond Symphony Orchestra League Concerto Competition.

He was also the grand-prize winner of the 2017 American Fine Arts Festival International Concerto Competition where he was invited to perform at the Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall.

Kim has performed at venues such as the Jazz at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, The Mansion at Strathmore, and at the Hylton Performing Arts Center as the featured solo violinist performing Antonio Vivaldi's “Four Seasons Winter” with the Manassas Symphony Orchestra during its 2016 Winter Concert. 

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Violinist Kelsey Payne hails from King George.

Kelsey Payne

Kelsey Payne is a 16-year-old from King George. Since August 2016, she has been a student of Ricardo Cyncynates, assistant concertmaster with the National Symphony Orchestra. She is the youngest of four children, all of whom are string players.

Payne started piano lessons at age 4 and took up the violin at age 8. Through the years, she has enjoyed playing with many ensembles. She participated with Fredericksburg Area Young Musicians, Awards for Young Musicians, Youth Orchestra of Prince William, and the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.

She currently plays with her siblings in the Mary Washington Philharmonic Orchestra and the Payne Quartet.

For three out of the last four years, Payne has had the honor of sitting as concertmaster for North Central Virginia's Regional Orchestra. She has also participated in the All Virginia State Orchestra for the past three years, placing third and then second overall respectively in 2017 and 2018.


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Saxophonist Patrick Smith is a senior at Kettle Run High School.

Patrick Smith

Smith is a senior at Kettle Run High School. He began playing saxophone in the seventh grade and started private study in ninth grade. He has participated in the Kettle Run marching band, jazz band, and wind ensemble for the past four years.

Smith was chosen for the District Band during all four years of high school, making first chair in the district for the past three years, as well as participating in the University of South Carolina Honor Band Clinic in 2017 and 2018. He also made the prestigious Honor Band in 2017, All-County Jazz Band and Tri-County Band for all four years of high school.

He further made the 2017 and 2018 All-VA Concert Band groups, placing seventh and sixth in the entire state. He made the cut for the 2017 and 2018 All-VA Jazz groups, placing second and fourth.

Smith was a student at the Summer Residential Governor’s School for Visual and Performing Arts for saxophone performance. He wishes to continue to study music at a prestigious university and turn music into his career.

The opportunity to see these three talents in person should not be missed. In the years ahead you may well claim, “I saw them in the beginning.”

Tickets for the upcoming Young People’s Concert on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 3 p.m. at Highland Center for the Arts in Warrenton can be obtained at:

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