Student Musicians Prepare for Final Round of Annual Concerto Competition

By Nicole Towne, Publicity Intern

A love for music, passionate performances, and a bit of competition will be spotlighted at the University Center for the Arts during the Finnish and Fabulous Finals concert on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at the University Center for the Arts. CSU students Dmitri Ascarrunz, Sicong Zhou, Kate Gelsinger, and Omar Calixto take the stage with the University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Wes Kenney, to compete in the finals of the annual Concerto Competition.

Sicong Zhou

Zhou, a senior studying piano, presents movements two and three of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Op. 54.

“It’s really charming,” Zhou says. “I’m really impressed by the piece.”

Zhou has been practicing piano since age three. His mother was his first piano teacher and has been supporting him ever since. Zhou is a perfectionist when it comes to piano. Having his mother’s support has been a counter balance as she helps him relax and not take every onstage mistake to heart. Zhou’s piano concerto is putting his attention to detail and precision to the test.

“[Schumann’s Concerto] sounds easy, but when you play it it’s very hard to play perfectly,” Zhou says.

Dmitri Ascarrunz

For senior violinist Dmitri Ascarrunz, playing in the annual concerto competition gives him his first opportunity to perform as a soloist in Griffin Concert Hall. 

“I’ve performed a lot on the Griffin stage since it’s my fourth year performing with the University Symphony Orchestra, but I’ve never played as a soloist on that stage,” Ascarrunz said. “The experience of playing as a soloist is completely different, and the feel of the hall is completely different than when you are in an ensemble section.”

Ascarrunz will perform the first movement of Julius Conus’s Violin Concerto, saying that the piece contains sections of quick ascending notes, which create drama and musical build up, as well as moments of beauty.

Kate Gelsinger

Graduate students Kate Gelsinger and Omar Calixto will play Franz Krommer’s Concerto for Two Clarinets and Orchestra.

Gelsinger and Calixto met during their undergraduate studies at the Fredonia School of Music in New York. They have known about the piece for a while and shared a common interest in it, so when the opportunity came about, they signed up for the competition together.

“I think it really brings out some of my favorite characteristics of clarinet,” Calixto said. “The harmonies in the piece really demonstrate what the clarinet can do.”

This is Gelsinger’s first time getting to perform competitively, and the experience has been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.

“Dr. Ferreira, our professor, was so helpful in getting us to understand the competition mindset and what that’s like,” Gelsinger said. “I feel like I have developed a new level of focus putting [the piece] together.” 

Omar Calixto

In the several months Gelsinger and Calixto have been practicing, they have been developing as individual performers but also as a team.

“It’s been really special working with Kate,” Calixto said. “I feel like we speak the same musical language.”

The soloists will share the stage with the University Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at the University Center for the Arts. The program also includes one of Maestro Kenney’s favorite pieces, the highly dramatic first symphony of the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available at

Ticket Information

Tickets for the performance are no charge for Full-fee paying CSU students, $3 for youth (under 18), and $12 for seniors (62+), and $14 for adults. Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts (UCA) ticket office in the UCA lobby Monday through Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 60 minutes prior to performances, by phone at (970) 491-ARTS (2787), or online at