Fresh classics |

Fresh classics

Eileen JoyceMiriam Becker Drace plays the piano at Peace Lutheran Church in Grass Valley on Monday. She'll play there again at Music in the Mountains' Young Musicians Competition this weekend.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Every April, Miriam Becker Drace has sweaty hands and a few butterflies kicking around in her stomach.

The Nevada Union High School junior doesn’t mind one bit.

After all, she has chosen to enter the Young Musicians Competition, sponsored by Music in the Mountains, for the past seven years.

And each year, she has been a finalist in the competition, usually earning second place.

To say the least, it’s a nerve-wracking experience, especially when the 16-year-old considers she’s often competing against her best friends.

“When I’m playing at the finals, I want it to be over because I’m scared of making mistakes,” Drace said. “But afterwards, it’s fun.

“I’m on stage 10 minutes. It kind of goes fast, it’s over so quickly,” added Drace, who will be back at this year’s finals competition Sunday in Division V, the 11th and 12th grade category.

Each year, classical musicians in second through 12th grades compete in age-appropriate categories.

Drace, who has played piano for 10 years, subjects herself to the annual competition because it gives her a good reason to work on her performance skills.

She started to practice Chopin’s Nocturne in September and Rachmaninoff’s Humoresque in December.

“I learn from the competition,” Drace said moments before practicing on the competition piano Monday. “You realize where you stand, technique-wise. It’s always good to perform and deal with nerves. If I didn’t do the competition, I wouldn’t perfect the pieces and make them as good as I can.”

Drace practices the pieces six nights a week.

Joan Tumilty, Drace’s piano teacher for six years, has faith in her student.

“Miriam has had a really good year in piano. She will play beautifully Sunday,” Tumilty said.

Tumilty, who has one other student in this year’s finals, appreciates what the competition provides.

“It’s a performance goal for the students. They get community recognition for working hard. It’s challenging, but they have fun,” she said.

As a former youth competitor, Tumilty speaks from experience.

“Performers always get nervous. That’s part of the game. It’s exciting,” she explained. “I remember what it was like. It makes them feel good if they do well.”

Lucy Becker, Miriam’s mother, a classical singer who performed in Northern California, including for MIM, supports her daughter’s efforts.

“Miriam’s very musical,” Becker said. “She came from a musical family. Her great-grandfather played percussion and marimba, her grandmother played violin, her aunt played piano, her great-uncle was a music arranger and plays multiple different instruments.”

She has learned how to contain her own butterflies as she watches her daughter on stage.

“I was very nervous the first three years, when she was very young,” Becker said. “But her father and I have gotten used to it, watching our child compete in something she has worked hard at. We got to where we’re not so nervous. We enjoy listening to her. It’s a pleasure. I’m proud of her – she’s tenacious and works hard.”

As excited to perform her two pieces as the NUHS junior is, Drace is also looking forward to hearing her peers.

“This competition shows what the community can offer,” she said. “People are often surprised that teen-agers are willing to put in so much time for the music.”

Know and Go

WHAT: 16th annual Young Musicians Competition Finals sponsored by Music in the Mountains

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

WHERE: Peace Lutheran Church, 828 W. Main St., Grass Valley



Young Musicians Competition Lineup


Division I

(Grades 2-4)

Matisse Geenty, violin

Kashi Betts, cello

Amanda Lostritto, violin

Division II

(Grades 5-6)

Jennifer Harpainter, piano

Jordan Thomas-Rose,


Division III

(Grades 7-8)

Liana Rose Campus,


Emily White, piano

Emily White, violin

Katie Harpainter, violin


Division IV

(Grades 9-10)

Chiara Coombs, harp

Lyell Sakauc, piano

Division V

(Grades 11-12)

Julie Lipson, piano

Jonathan Palmer, cello

Miriam Becker Drace,


Division VI

(Ensemble, grades 2-6)

Kashi Betts, cello

Josh Rice, violin

Dylan Rodrigue, guitar

Division VII

(Ensemble, grades 7-12)

Stephanie Brown, flute

Jared Hiscock, piano

Sarah Ramey, flute

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User