Hays Symphony hosting a student soloist competition


Brian Buckstead, director of Hays Symphony Orchestra, is hosting an FHSU Concerto/Aria Competition as a challenge for student soloists. The winners will perform with the orchestra on their Feb. 18 Masterworks Concert.

The application due date is Oct. 28, and auditions will be held on Dec. 4 in Palmer Hall, located inside Malloy Hall on campus. Sign-up sheets are available in Malloy’s main office.

Singers and instrumentalists alike have been hard at work preparing their pieces since the start of the semester. Requirements for the competition are as follows:

  • Must be enrolled as a full-time student, sophomore or above (of-age transfer students welcome).
  • Participants do not have to be music majors, but they must be enrolled in private lessons through the university.
  • The selected audition piece must be written for both soloist and orchestra, and available in print. If there are any questions or concerns about whether the piece is appropriate for the concert, contact Buckstead at blbuckstead@fhsu.edu

“The exciting thing, but the sort of scary thing, is that I don’t know the program yet,” Buckstead said. “That will be determined in December, and the orchestra will probably do one or two pieces on their own. I don’t know the number of students yet. It depends on what they’ll perform.”

The past few years have gone towards highlighting the Hays Symphony on its own, but now, Buckstead said the competition has helped him program what he considers “a well-balanced season.” He hopes to maintain the competition as a yearly event.

“Seeing the symphony perform on its own is a great thing, but when someone stands up there, performing with the symphony…that’s extra special,” Buckstead said. “The audience can really connect with that single soloist.”

Senior Luis Valencia Zamora, who will sing “Guerrier, che d’un accairo” from Mozart’s Lucio Silla, said that the competition has helped him and others embrace their individual musicianship.

“I’ve seen a lot more practicing, a lot more friendly competition, and a lot more support within the department,” Valencia Zamora said. “It’s given us a goal to work towards.”

In past years, especially at the height of the pandemic, Valencia Zamora felt a “lull” in the Music Department from the limitations in their classes and performances. With the help of the HSO competition, he said he could feel everything come back to life.

Sophomore Ashley Vilaysing, who plans to audition with Weber’s “Concertino for Clarinet, Op. 26,” said that it has been fulfilling to push her technique so far, including memorizing the nearly nine-minute piece.

“It’s definitely challenged me in a new way,” Vilaysing said. “We are a smaller school, so there’s not as many opportunities for people to perform solos outside of their studios – that’s a small group of people. I do enjoy getting this chance to imagine myself in front of a bigger crowd…a whole audience, rather than just my studio.”

Music students stepping up to Buckstead’s challenge have banded together to encourage one another and hold each other accountable for preparation. Vilaysing said she uses social media to share her practice milestones.

“I post when I’m working on stuff, when it has me stressed, and different landmarks…where I’m hitting, where I’m falling short…letting my friends know where I am,” Vilaysing said. “It’s always a rewarding experience to know where you’ve started and see where you are now.” 

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