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Stellar Young Musicians Set to Shine on Stage

Friends of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra continues its Rising Stars Showcase for a third year.

  • CORRECTIONS: In an earlier version of this story, Sonia Mantell of Orland Park was incorrectly listed as playing the viola. She plays the cello. Also, Johnathan Walters age was incorrectly listed as 17. He is 15. 

Two years ago, a group of rising stars appeared in the South Suburbs. These stellar bodies weren't in the night sky but rather on a local theater stage—musical stars of the future.

That 2009 Friends of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) debut Rising Stars Showcase wowed a packed house at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights. This weekend, the third group of Rising Stars from across the Southland will continue the tradition, this time in Flossmoor.

“Young people on the Northside have many opportunities to demonstrate their talents,” said Dory Machtinger, Friends of the IPO president. “In our community, there are very few such chances. The Friends present this spotlight so young artists out here will have the opportunity to shine, gain more stage experience and perhaps be discovered.

“Most importantly, we can be there to support them,” she added.

Machtinger and event co-chair Helen Silvia would love to see a packed house of music lovers at a concert that is a bargain.  

Silvia said a number of former Rising Stars continue to soar, taking advanced studies and performing professionally.

That list includes Matthew Lipman of Crete, who studies viola at Juilliard School in New York City; Sonia Mantell of Orland Park on cell0, who is now at the New England Conservatory in Boston; violinist Vincent Meklis at Music Institute of Chicago Academy; and pianist Ben Amenta of Chicago, who is an Artist Certificate Student at DePaul University and now studies harpsichord with concert artist David Schrader. 

Patch asked this year’s Rising Stars via e-mail what connects them to music and to their instruments of choice. Their program pieces and excerpts from their answers follow.

Jessica Bouma, 17, Dyer, IN, violin
Will perform Vitorio Monti’s Czardas.

“I have been playing the violin since I was 4,” Bouma said. The violin can sing, weep, moan, yearn, dance or whisper. Each time I play my instrument, its sound is quite unique.

“I cherish music because of its beautiful circular effect. As the play shapes the musical lines and melodies, the musical lines and melodies shape the life of the player. Before I wanted a career in music, I was considering being a pharmacist or running for the U.S. presidency.”

Elizabeth “Libby” Doubrawa, 16, Tinley Park, viola
Will perform Carl Maria von Weber’s Andante e Rondo Ungarese.

“I have been playing the violin for about seven years and viola for one year and am a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra,” Doubrawa, a senior said. “I hope to pursue a double major in viola performance and education in a conservatory or university. I’m inspired by many performers and composers and also by my teacher, Mr. Matt Mantell (IPO principal viola).”

Hayley Jensen, 16, Homer Glen, clarinet 
Will perform Sonata for Clarinet by Camille Saint-Saens.

“I gave been playing the clarinet for almost eight full years now,” Jensen said. “What attracts me to the clarinet is that it is such a versatile instrument. You can go from Benny Goodman playing the jazz clarinet to Larry Combs performing in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with each player having very different sounds.

“I cherish music because on the outside, music seems to be something mysterious, even intangible. Yet when I play a great piece of music, it feels so right and familiar to me that I have to wonder why it felt so mysterious in the first place.”

Joshua Litao, 9, Tinley Park, violin
Will perform Arcangelo Corelli’s LaFolia.

Joshua’s mother, Dyan Litao, said Joshua’s affinity for music surfaced at age 2 and has soared since then. She credits Janet Kuester of for her ability to work with Joshua’s difficulties with rigid lessons, and the youngster continues to garner prizes.

“What Joshua says he loves about music is feeling good about himself, proud of his talents and accomplishments. He likes to perform for a lot of people and see their joy in his music,” she said.

Thomas Ridgway, 17, Shorewood, piano
Will perform three short pieces: Rhapsodie in E flat major by Johannes Brahms, Vision Fugitive by Sergei Prokofiev and Andante and Rondo Capriccioso by Felix Mendelssohn.

“I have been playing the piano for nine years,” Ridgway said. “What attracts me to the piano are the wonderful tone colors it can produce. The fact that it can stand on its own and has a plethora of repertoire appeals to me as well.

“The sonorousness of the bass I especially adore. Music seems to speak to me. The range of emotions it can express without words astounds me. I do plan to pursue it professionally.”

Andy Seidel, Flossmoor, trombone
Will perform Ferdinand David’s Concertino for Trombone.

“There wasn’t any reason I picked the trombone, but I’m glad I did because I love its tone and the fact that it can play in so many settings,” Seidel, a high school senior said.

“Music is beneficial to the way people think. It’s easy to express yourself through music and have an effect on others.”

Jonathan Walters, 15, Park Forest, violin
Will perform Camille Saint- Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor

“I have been playing the violin for eight years,” Walters said. “I like the violin because it is more expressive than most instruments. I see music as a way to express my inner feelings. Jascha Heifetz is one of my favorite performers. His music remains very exciting."

Friends of the IPO Rising Star Showcase

When: 4 p.m. Sunday,
Where: , 2218 Hutchison Dr., Flossmoor
Cost: $10
Tickets and information: 708-481-7774, www.ipomusic.org and at the door

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