Arts and Entertainment

Going solo: Young Solo Artists will play concert in Langley

This year, the four young soloists selected to perform with the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra are flutist Wyatt Homola, violinist Kalob Tatum, viola player Marena Salerno Collins and violinist Rachel Means. - Patricia Duff / The Record
This year, the four young soloists selected to perform with the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra are flutist Wyatt Homola, violinist Kalob Tatum, viola player Marena Salerno Collins and violinist Rachel Means.
— image credit: Patricia Duff / The Record


From the Latin, “solus,” it means alone.

Just the word itself is unsettling.

But there are those who are undaunted by the lonesome quality of that word. They go about achieving a goal by themselves out of sheer determination to be great.

Comparable in bravery to the principal ballerina, the small-plane pilot and the branching-off-on-her-own corporate executive, the young musical soloist eventually faces the music, so to speak, and goes at it alone.

After school, while their friends may be playing sports or hanging out with friends, you’ll find them at their music lessons or doing their allotted hours of practice.

And while their friends, gifted as they are in their own interests, may share with them every lyric of a Beyoncé or a Jonas Brothers song, it is notable that the young classical music soloist is familiar with perhaps the sharp, liveliness of a Georg Telemann concerto or the lovely, melodic quality required to capture the romance of a piece by Charles de Beriot.

Both those composers will be part of the repertoire played by the musicians at the Young Solo Artists Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 21 at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

Soloists were chosen from live auditions held in January in Langley under the sponsorship of conductor Legh W. Burns and the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra, with whom the soloists will perform.

The four young musicians selected include Marena Salerno Collins, viola; Rachel Means, violin; Kalob Tatum, violin; and Wyatt Homola, flute.

Eleven contestants from Whidbey Island under the age of 19 competed by performing a piece suitable for a solo instrument and orchestral accompaniment. Winners from the previous year were not eligible.

Ripe with classical musicians as the island is, even the well-initiated are still in awe of young talent coming up.

“I think it is interesting that kids these days, being bombarded with all the trappings of contemporary culture — iPods, video games, etc. — have found the interest and discipline to study music of the Baroque and Romantic musical periods,” said Larry Heidel, a Saratoga Chamber Orchestra musician and liaison.

“How is it that a bunch of 200-year-old dead composers can compete with Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers?” he added.

In its third year, the Young Solo Artists Concert honors young talent by affording them the opportunity to perform a solo piece to the accompaniment of the island’s impressive Saratoga Chamber Orchestra with Burns at the baton.

Some of the young musicians have performed solo before.

At 16, Rachel is the oldest of the group and performed solo two years ago with Saratoga Chamber Orchestra in the first year of the competition.

The Greenbank teen is home-schooled and currently attends Skagit Valley College in the Running Start program, and yet still finds time to practice violin, among other instruments, for an hour or so each day.

A former member of the Everett Youth Symphony, Rachel now plays in the Junior Orchestra of the Seattle Youth Symphony Organization and is also a member of the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra’s violin section.

“I love my teacher, Roxallanne Medley, and I think that she’s wonderful and is a lot of the reason why I am as good at the violin as I am,” Rachel said.

Kalob is a seventh-grade Home Connection student from Oak Harbor who has been playing the violin under the guidance of Ward Beebe for eight years.

Kalob said the thrill for him about playing is being able to express himself in a different way, which makes his daily two-hour practice times fine by him.

Although he’s played with an orchestra before, this will be his first time performing as a classical soloist, and he takes it in stride.

“I will just enjoy doing what I love to do,” Kalob said.

Last fall, he was a featured soloist on a sunset dinner cruise sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Oak Harbor and was also a member of the Skagit String Band, performing Celtic fiddle tunes at the Highland Games and festivals in the area.

Kalob has competed in the Northwest Regional Scottish Fiddling Championships and ranked in the top three each of the three years he competed, as well as playing for the Fidalgo Youth Symphony for the past four years.

When he’s not practicing his concertos, Kalob’s tastes run the musical gamut from rock to Celtic and reggae.

“I also like to play Gypsy pieces because they are so full of energy and are so sneaky,” he said.

The youngest of the bunch, viola player Marena of Langley, is a 12-year-old Whidbey Island Waldorf School student.

The viola is fairly new to Marena, having studied that instrument for only a year. Marena speaks of the world of music as one would the proverbial oyster, adding other talents to her seven years of experience playing violin and recently discovering a love of the piano and alto saxophone.

“I love to compose songs, too. I like the freedom of it,” Marena said.

“Playing in the Langley Middle School Jazz Band has brought jazz into my life and it’s awesome to improvise with my saxophone.”

Marena is currently an advanced violin/viola student at Elizabeth Stuen-Walker’s studio in Bellingham, and counts among her many musical mentors Linda Good, Kat Fritz, Talia Toni Marcus, Teo Benson, Kathy Fox and Neil Welch.

Marena attended the 14th World Suzuki Convention in Turin, Italy in 2006 and was invited to attend the 15th International Suzuki Convention in Melbourne, Australia in April.

Even at her young age, Marena realizes her accomplishments have come not only from hours of practice, but from a collaboration.

“I have had some of the best music teachers in the world who have helped me learn to love music,” she said.

Oak Harbor Middle School eighth-grader Wyatt, 13, said he was thrust into the world of music eight years ago when he began playing the piano. But his uncle inspired him to turn to the flute about six years ago, the instrument on which he will perform as a soloist. He studies under the direction of Avi Rostov.

When he’s not trying to practice his flute for an hour per day, he does what other teenage boys do.

“I picked up the saxaphone, which now allows me to play a wider variety of music,” Wyatt said.

“I also play the drums a bit so I can play with all the other teenagers who are obsessed with electric guitar. I never could get them to turn the amp down low enough for me to play the flute.”

Having played with the Fidalgo Youth Symphony, Wyatt said he knows the thrill of playing in a large group.

“I think the most amazing thing about playing with a group like this is what you can get out of the music as a whole,” Wyatt said.

“When you listen or play music by yourself, you can feel an incredible amount of emotion or become one with the melody, so to speak. But as a group, you can share that emotion with other people, and everybody’s interpretation of the music adds to the feelings you have,” he added.

Wyatt said that having classical music in his life makes him appreciate all varieties of music even more, a fact that some of his friends may not grasp yet.

“I am pretty certain that I’m the only kid in the school who has Pachelbel’s Canon on my iPod. I’ve gotten a lot of laughs for that.”

The evening will include pieces for solo instrument and orchestra by Vivaldi, Telemann, Quantz and Bériot.

In addition, the orchestra will perform Vivaldi’s “Concerto for Strings” and “Valse Triste” by Sibelius.

Tickets cost $15 for adults and seniors, $10 for students. Buy tickets at the WICA box office or call 800-638-7631, 221-8268 or visit

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