Ozark Festival Orchestra Young Artists sure to impress at Sunday concert

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Ozark Festival Orchestra Young Artists Janine Niswonger, senior division winner, at right, and Isaac Foster, junior division winner, at left. They will play Haydn and Mozart at the 3 p.m. concert Sunday in Monett City Hall Auditorium. [Carol Echols, photo]

This year's soloists for the Ozark Festival Orchestra's 10th annual Young Artists Concert at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 29, at Monett City Hall Auditorium come from both east and west of Monett.

The Young Artists program offers an opportunity for young people to play a showcased solo part on a major orchestra work such as a concerto in a concert performance. This year's senior division winner is Janine Niswonger of Neosho playing the finale to Haydn's Piano Concerto in G Major, Hob. XVIII: No. 4. The junior division winner is Isaac Foster of Bois D'Arc, playing the "larghetto" movement from the Piano Concerto in F Major No. 11 by Mozart.

Junior division winner Isaac Foster came to playing the piano in the same way many young people do.

"My mom said, 'You're going to play something," Isaac said. His grandmother played piano and that seemed like a good place to start. Isaac ended up liking it, and not pursuing any other instruments. He started playing six years ago and now, as a home-schooled sixth grader, he studies with Cindy Dittrich in Springfield.

Isaac said Dittrich teaches him technique and "staying with a piece, breathing, and loving the piece. She expects good things, and pushes you to do it. She finds pieces to advance you along."

The slow movement from the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 11 that Isaac plays with the Ozark Festival Orchestra "seemed like the best piece for me at this point in my development. Since this is the first time I've played a concerto or played with an orchestra, it's slower and simpler. It gives me the chance to get used to the feel of things."

Isaac is exploring the musical landscape these days, discovering what's out there and what he likes. He enjoys playing Bach, Mozart, and Norwegian composer Christian Sinding. Isaac likes listening to Rachmaninoff, and looks forward to being able to play his work, and that of some of the technical masters of jazz.

Big orchestral works as well as jazz rank high on Isaac's playlist. He also identified movie soundtracks as some of his favorite listening.

Isaac is the son of Andy and Heidi Foster, and lives in Bois D'Arc. He plans to pursue his piano studies through high school, but is unsure where music making will position itself in his life after that. He plans to join the Air Force and see where life will take him.

Senior division winner Janine Niswonger began taking piano lessons with her father. The daughter of Johnnie and Teresa Niswonger of Neosho, Janine confessed, "I always loved music." That showed when she and her brother outpaced her father's teaching ability. Now a junior in high school, Janine has studied with Marilyn Abercrombie in Neosho since age 11.

"I like to play everything. I like Bach, Chopin, Mozart, Haydn, Rachmaninoff, and Schumann. I especially like [contemporary composer] Dennis Alexander," Janine said. Opera, especially Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, particularly grabs her.

She gravitated toward the rondo finale of the Haydn concerto as her audition and performance piece for the senior division of the Young Artists competition because of what it let her do. "I like fast, lively stuff. It lets me show off."

Much of Janine's playing opportunities come in church, playing hymns. "I want to glorify God through music. Music will be a major part of my life."

Janine enjoys exploring all genres of music and different styles. She wrote a song for her brother's graduation and found herself quite caught up in the composing process. "I love composing. It's easy to find material," she said.

Home schooling has enabled Janine more freedom to explore personal interests. While she has not yet made plans for a career in music, she is already teaching piano to four students, two of which are younger siblings.

In addition, the orchestra will play two crowd pleasing selections: the tuneful "Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 1" by Ottorino Respighi, and "Eight Russian Folksongs" by Anatol Liadov.

A reception for the soloists will follow the concert in the auditorium.

Admission to the concert is $5. Children high school age and under will be admitted free. The Monett City Hall is located at Fifth and Bond streets, one block north of UMB Bank on Broadway in downtown Monett.

The OFO Young Artists program is underwritten by the Barry-Lawrence Area United Fund, expanding opportunities for young people.

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