Rebecca Shiao is a little nervous going into the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s “Celebrate the Future” concert on Friday.
“It’s such a big audience, and to be able to produce the sound that Prokofiev wanted,” the 18-year-old pianist mused aloud, ticking off a couple things that have crossed her mind as she prepares to play the first movement of the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 3.
For Shiao, a Catalina-Foothills High School senior, Friday’s concert will be her biggest. More than 2,000 people can fit into Tucson Music Hall, the TSO’s longtime home, and the thought of all those people focusing on her is a bit rattling, she admitted.
But she won’t be alone. Shiao will share the spotlight and attention with two other young artists who snagged top honors in the TSO’s annual Young Artists Competition. In addition to cash prizes, the winners earned the opportunity to perform with the TSO.
This is the first time in four years that the orchestra has hosted “Celebrate the Future.” The concert was put on the backburner after the 2010 event due to budget constraints, said Shawn Campbell, the TSO’s vice president of artistic engagement and education, and a longtime player in the horn section.
“It was something that was very painful for us because it was very important,” Campbell said, sitting in a small conference room of the Tucson Symphony Center in late April. “We walk around saying it’s the feel-good concert of the year, but it really is.”
The concert was resurrected this year with the financial support of Adrienne Knoll, in memory of her late husband, Bob. Campbell said the concert reflects the orchestra’s commitment to educational outreach and its young artists programs.
In addition to Shiao, the concerto winners who will perform Friday are pianist Hannah Lee, a fourth-grader from Ventana Vista Elementary School and University of Arizona percussionist Trevor Barroero.
The concert will also feature original compositions by members of the orchestra’s Young Composers Project: Anthony Constantino, a junior at New York’s Manhattan School of Music; Angelese Pepper, a senior at Insight Academy of Arizona in Safford; and Ben Nead, a senior at University High School.
Shiao, who was born in Taiwan and moved with her parents to Tucson when she was 4, started playing piano at 5. She began lessons at 10, and added violin to the mix six years ago. She plans to study piano performance at the University of Arizona and explore other possible fields, including pre-med.