Matinée Musicale awards $53K in scholarships to young musicians

Matinée Musicale Cincinnati awarded $53,500 in scholarships to a group of 19 young classical instrumental and vocal students from across the region.

The awards are the result of the seventh annual Nancy F. Walker Memorial Scholarship Auditions held recently at Anderson Hills Church. The yearly competition is open to students at Greater Cincinnati-area public, private and home schools and local colleges and universities.

The first-place finishers in the high school categories are violinist Erica Nam and Ella Clark, a mezzo-soprano. The top college prizes went to cellist Abigail Leidy and soprano Léa Nayak.

Below is the complete list of scholarship winners for 2024. As an organizational policy, Matinée Musicale doesn’t release the value of individual scholarships.

Funds for the scholarship program come from Matinee Musicale Cincinnati Endowment Fund.

“Year after year, I’m astounded at the level of accomplishment our scholarship participants have achieved,” said Kathy Adams, one of the coordinators of the event. “The winners in all categories are talented, of course, but they also display an understanding of musical styles, disciplined technique and an overall musicianship that just can’t be taught.”

Inspiring the next generation of classical musicians

Originating in 1911, Matinée Musicale began its professional recital series in 1913. The recitals feature up-and-coming musicians as well as established vocal and instrumental artists selected worldwide.

The organization made the decision to expand its promotion of the art form among the next generation of musicians through the Nancy Fuldner Walker Scholarship Audition. 

Nancy Fuldner Walker was a musician, music teacher and strong advocate for all music and arts organizations. She provided leadership to Matinée Musicale Cincinnati for more than four decades before her death in 2017.

Today, the competition is open to area high school and college juniors and seniors. This year, students studying under 38 teachers from three colleges and 14 public, private and home schools applied to take part. 

A group of distinguished singers and instrumentalists judged the contest, providing comments and feedback to not only determine the winners but also support the students’ development.

Over the years, the auditions have evolved into a family affair for many young musicians. Nam, for instance, watched her sister Christina, also a violinist, claim the same title during the first competition in 2018. Christina is now a senior at The Juilliard School.

Violinist Anthony Dorsey claimed the third-place spot in high school instrumental, the same position his brother Daniel, a cellist, earned in 2021. Daniel is finishing his junior year at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

To date, the program has awarded $268,200 to promising musical artists. 

“We’re honored to help these young people further their studies and hopefully, through them, do our small part in keeping classical music alive,” Adams said.

High school instrumental winners

  • 1st: Erica Nam – violin; Kurt Sassmannshaus, teacher
  • 2nd: Keliang Yao – piano; Logan Skelton, teacher
  • 3rd: Anthony Dorsey – violin; Kurt Sassmannshaus, teacher
  • Encouragement Awards:
    • Kaede Suzuki – piano; Jackson Leung, teacher
    • Vivian Chang – violin; Hong Cheng, teacher

College instrumental winners  

  • 1st: Abigail Leidy – cello; Alan Rafferty, teacher
  • 2nd: Vera Tianyi Lu – piano; Polina Bespalko, teacher
  • 3rd: Chang Lu – piano; Sara Daneshpour, teacher
  • Encouragement Awards:
    • Ava Shedd – violin; Won-Bin Yim, teacher
    • Madeline Arney, harp; Gillian Sella, teacher

High school vocal winners

  • 1st: Ella Clark – mezzo-soprano; Talia Zoll, teacher
  • 2nd: Natalie Marshall – soprano; Catherine Keen, teacher
  • 3rd: Evan Stuart – baritone; Catherine Keen, teacher
  • Encouragement Awards:
    • Makenna Peterson – soprano; Kim Buczek, teacher
    • Catherine Mazzella – soprano; Melanie Woodruff, teacher

College vocal winners

  • 1st: Léa Nayak – soprano; Gwen Coleman, teacher
  • 2nd: Natalie Corrigan – mezzo-soprano; Amy Johnson, teacher
  • 3rd: Eric Riedel – tenor; Alison Acord, teacher
  • Encouragement Award:
    • Lauren Albano – soprano; Stuart Skelton, teacher

Instrumental Judges

  • J.R. Cassidy: Conductor, music director of the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra.
  • May Phang: International performer and professor of piano at DePauw University.
  • Dale Swisher: Violinist and conductor who has led the Anderson High School orchestra teacher for more than 20 years. Also, a retired Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra conductor and a past director of both the Xavier University Chamber Orchestra and Blue Ash Youth Symphony Orchestra. 

Vocal Judges

  • Mark Calkins: Past president of Kentucky National Association of Teachers of Singing who continues to teach master classes in opera internationally.
  • Edith Tidwell: Distinguished professor at University of Louisville who performed with the New York City Opera for seven seasons. Also sung with orchestras and opera companies throughout the United States, Canada and Great Britain.
  • Scott Wyatt: Has sung with orchestras and opera companies internationally and served as a voice professor at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Xavier University, Northern Kentucky University, Florida College and Cincinnati Christian University.

Matinée Musicale Cincinnati


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