Teen cellist vies for international honors 

click to enlarge Jeremy Tai
  • COURTESY photo
  • Mountain View cellist Jeremy Tai, 15, is a semifinalist in the Irving M. Klein International String Competition. The St. Francis High School student is the only local semifinalist.
For three years, since he was 12, Jeremy Tai has been in the audience of the Irving M. Klein International String Competition at San Francisco State University, imagining he could be among the semifinalists.

“I am thrilled that this year my dream has come true,” says the 15-year-old cellist, who is one of eight semifinalists vying this weekend for cash prices, fame and performance opportunities.

“It is such a great honor to have the opportunity to learn and be inspired by top musicians, who share the same musical passion and aspiration from all over the world,” says Jeremy, a student at St. Francis High School in Mountain View. He is the only local musician appearing in the 29th annual competition, which drew 117 entries from 12 countries. Semifinalists, including seven who are teens, are from Vermont, Boston, South Korea, Houston, Los Angeles, Illinois and New York.

Jeremy’s teacher is Jonathan Koh, a cellist who performs with the San Francisco Symphony and other major orchestras. He became a San Francisco Conservatory of Music faculty member at age 24, the youngest faculty hire in the school’s 97-year history.

The semifinal and final rounds of the competition are open to the public. Each performer is required to play an unaccompanied work by Bach, movements from notable concertos and a new commissioned composition by San Francisco Symphony assistant concertmaster Mark Volkert. In the final round, the musicians perform additional portions of their selected concerto and one major sonata movement.

Competition artistic director Mitchell Sardou Klein, delighted with the young age of the contestants, says, “This year’s semifinalists represent the new generation of classical music, where virtuosity and passion are more important than ever. We are seeing more children and teenagers pursue music careers and setting the bar even higher. They will take music to new, indescribable heights, and much of it starts here at the Klein competition.”

This year’s grand prize, given in memory of Marvin T. Tepperman, includes cash and performances with the Peninsula and Santa Cruz symphonies, Gualala Arts Chamber Music Series, Music in the Vineyards, Noontime Concerts and others. The grand prize is valued at $13,000.

Past Klein winners include such now-famous artists as Alyssa Park, Jennifer Koh and Vadim Gluzman. Klein veterans now occupy principal chairs in major orchestras in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Cleveland.


Irving M. Klein International String Competition

Where: Knuth Hall, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Ave., S.F.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (semifinals), 4 p.m. Sunday (finals)

Tickets: $5 to $20

Contact: (415) 338-2467, www.creativestate.sfsu.edu/node/8821

Note: A free panel discussion, “Orchestrating a Career in an Orchestra” with musicians Cathy Basrak, Robert DeMaine and Mark Volkert, is at 4 p.m. Friday in Knuth Hall.

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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