Fernando Perez

Fernando Perez of Boise, Idaho, was named the first-prize winner in the 2020 Donald Runnicles Musical Arts Scholarship Competition. In a video awards ceremony broadcast live on July 1, Grand Teton Music Festival Music Director Donald Runnicles named Perex the recipient of the $20,000 scholarship, with baritone Jordan Arnold Shawver taking second and oboist Coleton Morgan taking third.

The classical music world is in good hands.

So declared Maestro Donald Runnicles, music director of the Grand Teton Music Festival, as he named the winners of the 2020 music scholarship competition that bears his name.

The festival streamed this year’s awards ceremony via Facebook Live with last year’s first-, second- and third-place winners, the three judges of this year’s contest and the three 2020 finalists.

Hosted by Runnicles from his office in Walk Hall, the 49-minute video started with introductions of the judges. This year they were Joel Noyse, principal cellist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and a seven-year Grand Teton Music Festival veteran; Stephanie Key, associate principal clarinetist with the San Antonio Symphony and a 16-year festival stalwart; and conductor Jerry Hou of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, recently appointed associate conductor and music director of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, and previous associate conductor of the Grand Teton Music Festival.

“Watching these young musicians made me nostalgic and brought a lot of joy to me,” Hou said. “It reminded me of how much music making meant to me, how much it means to these young musicians. … I can see in their personalities and passion.”

Last year’s winners — pianist Marshall McCall, of Boise, Idaho; cellist Alexis DePaolo, of Casper; and baritone Brian Wacker, of Cheyenne — then shared a little bit about what the competition process and their eventual victories in it meant in terms of their musical careers.

“I never had many opportunities to play in large competitions or to participate in summer music camps,” said McCall, who attends Emory University in Atlanta. “I doubted myself as a musician, doubted my ability to be a serious classical musician. Coming to this competition was really meaningful — to perform on this beautiful stage, surrounded by my peers and the judges — it was so impactful. It let me know I had made it as a serious musician. And the generous scholarship really helped me to be able to afford my education at my dream school.”

And finally, Runnicles introduced this year’s finalist — the top three from a record field of entrants — baritone Jordan Arnold Shawver, from Billings, Montana; oboist Coleton Morgan, from Hartville, outside Casper; and flutist Fernando Perez, from Boise. They told a little about their genesis as musicians — Shawver and Morgan were raised by parents with professional musical backgrounds, while Perez traced his fascination with music back to the orchestra scores of Tom and Jerry cartoons — and a word or two about their aspirations to continue with their musical training.

Brief excerpts from each of their video auditions shown, and then the judges returned to the video to announce the winners:

Morgan was named third-place winner, which comes with a $7,500 scholarship to be used for any educational expenses as he continues his studies.

Shawver received the $12,500 second-place prize.

And Perez was visibly overcome to learn he had been named the first-place winner, which comes with a generous $20,000 scholarship.

“My heart is extremely full,” said Perez. “I’m thinking about all the memories I’ve had with music, my joy of playing with other musicians and being able to participate at all, and of all my teachers who have been fostering me.”

Perez said his family has always struggled financially, so $20,000 with which to launch his high education in music was bound to make all the difference.

The Donald Runnicles Musical Arts Scholarship Competition is sponsored by an anonymous donor. Applications are accepted in the first months of each year. For information about past winners and future contests, visit GTMF.org. 

Contact Richard Anderson at 732-7078 or rich@jhnewsandguide.com.

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