Published: Nov. 7, 2014

p4All apologies to Forrest Gump, but you really never know what you’re going to get at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Ekstrand music competition finals. Might be Bach, Bernstein or Basie, show tunes or a string quartet, a jazz solo or guitar duo. 

“The competition is open to any graduate student. The only requirement is that they perform a maximum of 15 minutes of music,” says organizer Margaret McDonald, assistant professor of collaborative piano. “There’s such a wide variety it’s really fun for the audience — it’s freewheeling.” 

The Bruce Ekstrand Memorial Graduate Student Performance Competition was started in 1987 by the late CU-Boulder administrator and psychology professor, who died in 1996.

This year’s free, public finals concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17 at Grusin Music Hall in the Imig Music Building on the CU-Boulder campus. 

After surviving two rounds of competition among some 40 contestants, four individuals and a string quartet have been named finalists: Altius String Quartet — Andrew Krimm, Andrew Giordiano, Joshua Ulrich and Zachary Reaves; Paul Kroeger, tenor; Daniel Nester, bassoon; Sharon Park, violin; and Rebecca Robinson, mezzo-soprano. 

Each finalist receives a $500 award. There also will be cash awards for first and second place and audience favorite. All awards are given for professional development, to help with costs for such things as performance, outreach or recording. 

“Every audition season, singers spend thousands of their own dollars on expenses, including … travel, application fees and promotional materials. It's a wonder we're ever able to afford it,” Robinson says. “It’s truly awards like the Ekstrand grant that enable us to pursue our goals.” 

“We’ve really enjoyed participating in the Ekstrand competition at CU,” says Reaves, founding cellist of the Altius Quartet. “We look forward to the positive influence this is going to have on our future.”

2014 Ekstrand Competition finalists

Mentored by the world-renowned Takács Quartet at CU-Boulder, the Altius String Quartet has played concerts around the United States and is the resident quartet of the Western Slope Concert Series in Colorado. Among its awards are a silver medal at the 2014 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and a gold medal at the 2013 Plowman Chamber Music Competition. 

Andrew Giordano grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where he began playing the violin at age 5 and joined the Williamsport Symphony at 15. He has performed at the Aspen Music Festival and with the National Repertoire Orchestra.

Andrew Krimm earned a BM in viola performance from CU-Boulder. He grew up in Dallas, where Downbeat Magazine recognized his exceptional performances in chamber music. He           performs on a 1940 Fredrick Haenel viola and studies with Erika Eckert, Geraldine Walther and Ellen Rose.

Zachary Reaves is the founding cellist of the Altius Quartet. He earned a BM in cello performance from Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, where he studied           with Andres Diaz and Christopher Adkins.

Joshua Ulrich has performed internationally and collaborated with James Tocco, Awadagin Pratt, Sandra Rivers and others. He has been awarded fellowships from the Aspen Music             Festival and Bowdoin International Music Festival and was a Shouse Artist at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. He is a regular substitute with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra       and concertmaster of the Richmond (Indiana) Symphony Orchestra.

Paul Kroeger graduated summa cum laude from Southern Methodist University in 2013. While at SMU, he performed in Albert Herring, Le Nozze de Figaro and Orpheus in the Underworld. At CU-Boulder he has performed with the CU New Opera Workshop and in The Pirates of Penzance

Daniel Nester was principal bassoonist for the Israel Chamber Orchestra, performing as a soloist, recording CDs and touring Europe and South America. He received a BM from the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv and an MM from the University of Southern California, where he received first prize in the USC Concerto Competition. He is the recipient of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship. 

Violinist Sharon Park has performed extensively throughout the U.S. as a soloist, orchestral and chamber musician in such venues as Carnegie Hall and Jordan Hall. She received top prizes at the Stradivarius International Violin Competition, ARTS Award by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and the Bronislaw Kaper Awards. She earned an MM from The Juilliard School and BM from the New England Conservatory and is a founding member of the Azur String Quartet. At CU-Boulder she studies with Lina Bahn, Edward Dusinberre and Charles Wetherbee.  

Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Robinson will appear as Dorabella in CU Opera’s production of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte in March 2015 and Ottone in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea in April. She did her undergraduate study at DePaul University and is a graduate of McGill University, where her roles included Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sesto in Giulio Cesare. She was a young artist with the Crested Butte Music Festival (2014) and Central City Opera (2102).