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
Matisse Geenty, violin
Kashi Betts, cello
Amanda Lostritto, violin
Jennifer Harpainter, piano
Liana Rose Campus,
Emily White, piano
Emily White, violin
Katie Harpainter, violin
Chiara Coombs, harp
Lyell Sakauc, piano
Julie Lipson, piano
Jonathan Palmer, cello
Miriam Becker Drace,
(Ensemble, grades 2-6)
Kashi Betts, cello
Josh Rice, violin
Dylan Rodrigue, guitar
(Ensemble, grades 7-12)
Stephanie Brown, flute
Jared Hiscock, piano
Sarah Ramey, flute
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