Competition winners featured in KSU orchestra concert


Richard Jeric, Kent State Concerto Competition undergraduate winner, practices Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G” with the orchestra on Thursday. This was the same piece that won him the undergraduate portion of the competition. Photo by Sam Verbulecz.

Brooke Bower

Every year, the Kent State Orchestra sponsors a school-wide concerto competition in search of one undergraduate and graduate musician to be featured in its February concert.

Richard Jeric, a senior music major, won the undergraduate competition with Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G”.

Marlene Ballena, a graduate performance major, won the graduate competition with her cellist piece of Dvorak’s “Cello Concerto in B minor.”

They will both perform with the Kent State Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. at Cartwright Hall on Sunday. Kent students and faculty are free with Kent State ID. Adults are $10 and other students are $5.

“It is always great collaborating with young, talented musicians,” orchestra director Scott Seaton said. “They are the ones who are going to build careers for themselves.”

Jeric said he has been waiting for the opportunity to perform in this concert.

“I’ve been a finalist every year I’ve been here, so it’s been a long experience,” he said. “It’s nice to finally win. Competitions are tough and draining so it’s definitely rewarding to get a victory.”

The concert will start with Jeric’s piano performance of “Piano Concerto in G,” then move to the orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s overture to “Romeo and Juliet” and finish with Ballena’s cellist performance of “Cello Concerto in B Minor.”

Jeric said he has been working on his piece in practices and lessons for the competition since May. He said he initially competed with 20 people, including three other pianists, in the preliminaries. He said there was a diverse mix of instruments at the competition and all of the students played well.

“We send three finalists from the undergraduate and graduate divisions to the finals in December,” Seaton said. “We hire outside professionals to pick the winners. We want to give as many people a chance to play with an orchestra as we can.”

Seaton said Jeric’s piece has a lot of solo lines for orchestra members to play. He said the orchestra provides a sparse background along with big effects for the “shiny, quirky” arrangement.

“Richard is a fantastic pianist,” Seaton said. “He is very easy to collaborate with. He just asks for what he wants and I can ask him for what I want in return.”

Seaton said Ballena’s piece is a very large-scale cello showpiece. Jeric said Ballena’s piece will be very emotional and deep. Ballena was unavailable for comment.

“Marlene is a very talented cellist,” Seaton said. “She knows exactly what she wants with the piece. It has been a fun, challenging process to adapt the piece for the concert. I think the result will be explosive.”

Seaton said the orchestra has been working on rehearsing the overture of “Romeo and Juliet” since the beginning of spring semester. He said every college orchestra should play the arrangement at least once and that it worked out with the concert being near Valentine’s Day. Jeric said that people should recognize songs in the arrangement from commercials and movies.

“As a senior, this is a pretty nice culmination of a lot of work,” Jeric said. “It’s humbling to be chosen to be around so many other people who play well. The concert should be a celebration of all the work the school has done.”

Contact Brooke Bower at [email protected].