For the first time in its 15-year history the prestigious Muriel May Scholarship music contest has been won by a violin player.
This year's five finalists played their hearts out at New Plymouth's Theatre Royal for a $10,000 scholarship last night.
Violinist Alex Geary was announced the scholarship winner after a programme that featured pieces from Niccolo Paganini, J S Bach, John Psathas and John Dowland.
Geary said he had not given too much thought about how he would spend the money but figured it would go towards his studies or a new violin.
Going into the contest he had no expectations of how the evening would play out. "I know anything can happen in these competitions." He said he just tried to play as well as he could.
Geary, 20, has just completed his first year of a bachelor of music degree in violin performance at the University of Waikato.
He started playing the violin when he was 9, and last year won the IRMT Taranaki Young Musician of the year award.
The Muriel May Scholarship is regarded as one of New Zealand's most prestigious musical contests.
The four other contestants this year were Simon Mace (pipe organ), Dylan Solomon (classical guitar), Breanna Morgan (piano) and Jake Church (classical guitar).
Each performed a 15-minute programme in front of adjudicator Richard Mapp, of Wellington.
Trustee Susan Case said the calibre of contestants was extremely high this year.
"They all presented themselves very professionally."
In 2009, Geary was awarded a Mayor's Choice Award at the Young Achievers Awards.
As well as being an exceptional violin player, he was also one of the country's finest karting drivers and received a trip to Japan from Yamaha in 2009 and was given the 2009 Toyota Fast Track Award entitling him to a fully funded drive in the Toyota Racing Series Lites.
The Muriel May Scholarship was started by Sylvia May in memory of her mother, Muriel, who wanted to financially help talented Taranaki musicians to reach their goals of becoming professional performers.
Former winners of the scholarship include Taranaki musicians Fraser Bremner and Leigh Kereopa, Hitmen Percussion's James Fuller, who won it in 2008, and Jacob Randall who won it last year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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