Fourteen-year-old violinist Marley Erickson was named the national first-place winner of the 2017-2018 Junior Strings Performance Competition at Disney World’s Coronado Springs Resort over St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
After first-place finishes at the state level in November 2017 and the Northwest Division level in January, the South Whidbey resident competed against the six other division winners at the 2017-2018 National Finals of the Student Competitions. It took place during the Music Teachers National Association annual conference.
“I recently discovered confidence while competing is probably the most important factor,” Erickson said.
Erickson said she isn’t naturally confident, but that learning to emanate confidence has helped her change her mental state and enhance her self-assurance during competitions.
She brought along Hiro David, a pianist from the Coleman Violin Studio where she studies, to accompany her at the national level. Erickson attributes David’s expertise as a dedicated, knowledgeable teacher with helping shape her music.
Beyond sheer confidence, Erickson credits hard work, great teachers and her parents, Richard and Erica, with setting her apart from the field and helping her nab the national prize in a competition that included pieces by Ysaye, Mozart and Piazzolla.
“I like discovering a piece of music at first, analyzing it and discovering what’s in it and portray that,” she said, adding that there is “so much work to sculpting a piece of music to sound how a composer would want it. That’s the most exciting for me. And when it’s polished perfect.”
Her ability to tease out complicated nuances helped her win the $1,000 prize in her first national appearance. She competed at the state level in 2013 and made it to the Northwest Division level in 2016.
“I was relieved when they announced me as the first-place winner. I have been ‘waiting in line’ for the win a long time so it’s nice to finally get the trophy,” she said in an email.
The ninth-grader is versed in baroque, classical, contemporary, romantic and impressionistic eras. Erickson enjoys avant-garde and has recently become interested in a few French movie soundtracks. She is also learning to improvise more, inspiring her to explore the gypsy-jazz genre.
Helping to further her repertoire, Jerry Mader, director of the Whidbey Island Girls Choir, has written six solo pieces for Erickson. Erickson describes the “six cantos” as “almost past avant-garde,” and include themes based on the Cheyenne Ghost Dance and also the work of 12th Century visionary Hildegard Von Bingen.
Richard Erickson has been pleased to see “so much support in the community as she ventures out on this very difficult road of becoming a soloist.”
Marley is unsure where she will attend college, but knows she will study music. While she has no local performances scheduled, she travels to Geneva, Switzerland next to compete in the 2018 Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition.