Cue the music, camera rollin' – young musicians compete in radio contest for most popular YouTube video performance

Cierra Lutz performing for the King FM radio competition.  - Contributed photo
Cierra Lutz performing for the King FM radio competition.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Several young Orcas violinists are hoping to win the hearts and ears of classical music lovers.

Three of Matthew Olson’s music students are competing for the chance to perform live on Seattle’s KING 98.1 FM radio station.

“I teach the violin because in addition to the valuable life lessons it teaches each student, music beautifies the soul and enlarges it,” Olson said.

Matthew Laslo-White, Cierra Lutz and Mackie Blackburn submitted a YouTube video of their performances; each session will be judged by a panel of musicians who will narrow the field to 10 by March 30. That group will perform live on the radio. At that point, the public will vote on for a grand prize winner, who will perform solo on the air on May 4.

All three students have been playing the violin since they were youngsters. Lutz and Laslo-White are both 11 and Blackburn is 18. For the audition recordings, each student was accompanied by Louellen McCoy on the piano.

Laslo-White said his strategy was simple: “Practice. Constant practice. Every day.”

Lutz got her inspiration from watching a violinist on YouTube.

“I found a violinist who played with so much feeling that you could almost hear a story coming from his violin,” she said.

Blackburn had a particularly intense week, as he was preparing not only for the KING FM contest but was also for an audition at a music school he hopes to attend next fall.

“Matthew Olson had been working with me very intensely for the last month to help me prepare for the music school audition,” Blackburn said. “I practiced as much as I could. More than normal.”

In choosing their song for the video, Lutz and Laslo-White pointed to the importance of musical dynamics, which is something their teacher emphasizes during their weekly private lessons.

“The concerto I played is one of my favorite songs,” Laslo-White said. “It tells a great, fantastic story.”

Lutz performed a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach.

“I love how much emotion I can put into it,” she said.

Blackburn says he plays the violin because it “allows me to express myself and improvise and find new songs and styles.”

Olson said it was a “a thrill” to see his students perform for the camera.

“I love getting to see the result of all their hard work,” Olson said. “They put a lot of extra effort into performing. When you are playing for judges, it takes your performing up to another level. You are striving for 100 percent accuracy, beauty and tone. As a teacher, you don’t always notice the progression because you are so close to it. When I watched the videos, it really struck me: wow, they really have made progress.”

The Islands’ Sounder created its own contest for readers to vote on their favorite musicians.

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