This week a collection of teenage musicians from Portland and surrounding communities step onstage to take their game to the next level. The Young Artists Debut offers a select group of musicians a chance to perform challenging work with extra coaching from Niel DePonte, a composer, conductor who is also principal percussionist for the Oregon Symphony.
What DePonte’s training them for is no regular recital. Most of the program’s alums go on to further training. Some, like Keith Buncke, are now pursuing careers at the top level of performance. Buncke, a Lake Oswego native, is in his third year at the Curtis Institute of Music, and just accepted a position as first chair bassoonist at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Buncke recalls YAD as “the first time I’d prepared a piece to a very high level, the kind of preparation where I almost couldn’t mess it up in performance. I still carry a lot of those concepts with me today.”
Performers in this year’s line-up range from singer Carly Cooney, who, at 13, sounds well on her way toward a career in opera, to Byron Fulop Laing, a 16-year-old violinist who’s already performed as a soloist with the Oregon Symphony.