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Winston-Salem Symphony names 2020–2021 Peter Perret Youth Talent Search winners

WINSTON-SALEM — The Winston-Salem Symphony has announced the winners of the 2020–2021 Virtual Peter Perret Youth Talent Search competition. The first-place winner of the junior division for ages 8 through 12 is Benjamin Luo from Apex. Luo studies piano with Florence Ko. The first-place winner of the senior division for ages 13 through senior year of high school is Heather Blake, a violinist from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). Blake is a senior and studies with Ida Bieler.

Heather Blake

Benjamin Luo

Other contestants recognized for their outstanding performances are:

Junior Division:

  • Second place: Siwat Phoncharoensri of Lewisville, who studies violin with Gregorio Midero.
  • Third place: Leah Gibson of Mocksville, who studies violin with Olesya Dashkevych.
  • Honorable mention: Chulin Tang of Charlotte, who studies piano with Keiko Aloe.

 Senior Division:

  • Second place: Norris Blackburn, a junior pianist from UNCSA who studies with Dmitri Schteinberg.
  • Third place: Hyunmin Ra of Fayetteville, who studies clarinet with Andy Hudson.
  • Honorable Mention: Jack King from Wilmington, who studies flute with Tadeu Coelho.

 First, second, and third place winners from each category will be offered a consultation and training session with Winston-Salem Symphony Conductor Emeritus Peter Perret and Winston-Salem Symphony Music Director Timothy Redmond. Winners also will be considered for various recording projects with the Winston-Salem Symphony in the future.

Auditions for the competition were held via video submission. Judges for the talent search were Peter Perret; Karen Ní Bhroin, assistant conductor of the Winston-Salem Symphony; and Rachel Watson, the Winston-Salem Symphony’s senior director of education, engagement & inclusion.

The annual youth talent search, named in honor of Peter Perret, was developed to identify North Carolina’s most gifted and talented young musicians. Maestro Perret established the competition as a means of helping develop young talent and as a way of recognizing and supporting the teachers and families of musically gifted children. Participation in the competition also provides students with information and motivation to continue their musical studies. Many have gone on to become professional musicians, including the winner of the very first Peter Perret Youth Talent Search, who is now a member of the New York Philharmonic.