A 12-year-old Langley girl is in London, England this week to compete in one of the world’s most prestigious violin competitions.
Marley Erickson and her family left South Whidbey this past weekend for the Menuhin Competition. Hailed by some as the “Olympics of the violin” for young musicians, Erickson is in the junior division and will play for the top spot among 21 other violinists from across the globe.
Held in Duke’s Hall at the Royal Academy of Music April 7-17, her audience will include a panel of nine internationally recognized jurors, other participants, and reportedly, a member of the royal family — Prince Charles himself.
In an interview with The Record last week, the shy and soft-spoken young woman said her acceptance into the renowned competition was a tremendous honor. Though she’s feeling a bit “excited nervous” — not to be confused with fear, as confidence is born of adequate preparation, she said — Erickson said she’s largely just honored and eager to perform with some of the world’s greatest youth talents.
“It would be phenomenal to win, but I’m not expecting to,” she said.
Erickson isn’t a stranger to personal success, however, having won the Seattle Symphony Youth Artists Audition in 2015; the prize was a chance to perform a solo with the symphony. The same year she won a special recognition at the Seattle Young Artists Music Festival and performed with the Ottawa Chamber Symphony in her solo orchestral debut. According to an online bio, she’s also been a medalist in the Seattle Music Teachers Association Simon-Fiset Competition since 2012, and performed at an annual benefit for Ugandan AIDS orphans.
All that talent didn’t come over night. Erickson started playing at age four and now practices about 30 hours a week. She trains at Coleman Violin Studio in Seattle under instructor Simon James, and regularly performs in live rehearsals and recitals. James characterized Erickson as a “poet on the violin” and said her talents are nothing short of extraordinary.
“Marley is a 12-year-old girl,” James said. “The things she can do on the violin… she can literally play anything, and that’s amazing.”
“She’s a pretty special kid,” he said.
He noted that just qualifying for the Menuhin Competition is a feat by itself. Hundreds of people from around the world applied, yet only a few made the cut. Only five were from the United States, and interestingly three are from Coleman Violin Studio — two of Erickon’s fellow students will compete against her.
Erickson is James’ third student from Langley. He’s also instructed Gloria Ferry-Brennan, a past Menuhin competitor, and Mira Yamamoto. Both are young violinists who have achieved their own acclaim.
“There seems to be something in the water up in Langley,” James said.
Erickson’s heroes include Christian Tetxlaff, Nathan Milstein and Yehudi Menuhin, the same man for which the competition she she’s now competing in is named. While not exactly artists popular among most preteens today, Erickson said she’s just not a big fan of most modern music.
“I very much dislike pop music,” she said.
There likely won’t be any playing at Duke’s Hall this week. Competitors in the junior division will compete in three rounds. If Erickson progresses to the final stage, she will have to perform a challenging piece about Menuhin. Described as a metaphor of his life, it’s turbulent at times, stirring and lovely at others. If Wolfgang Mozart’s music “flows,” this is “dissonant” and decidedly “not melodious,” Erickson said.
“This you have to live in the music, you have to get in a zone,” she said.
Adding to the challenge, the musician must play the piece while moving through the audience and hall. That also is meant to represent the movement of his life.
Erickson’s parents are naturally beaming with pride. Erica Lewis, her mother, said she is continually amazed by her daughter’s abilities, while father Rick Erickson said Erickson’s passion and talent have impacted the lives of the entire family.
“The excitement and adventures our family gets to partake in is because of Marley’s achievements,” he said.
To watch Erickson compete live, visit http://menuhincompetition.org/competition-2016.
Junior division rounds are April 8-9, semi-finals are April 12 and finals April 15.