From private lessons and summer workshops to black concert attire and a hired accompanist, the cost of being an elite musician can be tough to fund.
Recognizing this, Island Consort founder and program director Sheila Weidendorf created the Island Consort Young Musician’s Award, a scholarship for South Whidbey musicians aged from high school junior to college sophomore.
The inaugural 2018 recipient was South Whidbey High School junior Annie Saltee.
“I was really surprised,” she exclaims. “I was also very grateful. There are so many talented musicians on the island. It could have been anybody.”
Saltee plans to use the $500 prize to pay for private lessons and for her hired accompanist at this weekend’s regional solo/ensemble competition, where she placed high enough last year to qualify for state.
Between her bassoon and baritone sax, Saltee keeps busy as a member of the school’s wind ensemble, jazz band and high school pep band. She also plays baritone sax in a six-piece jazz combo with fellow students.
“There is jazz bassoon. It scares me. Bassoon does better with Baroque,” she says with a laugh.
Saltee says that while the bassoon is better suited for classical compositions, the baritone sax delivers a diversity ranging from jazz to classical pieces as well, and, as Saltee says, “it can also honk with the best of them.”
She picked up the guitar at a young age, after watching her dad playing, and soon began singing and playing at school assemblies and talent shows.
Along the way she picked up the flute, went from alto to tenor to baritone sax through her middle school years, and in eighth grade picked up the bassoon.
“More music. I’ll do that. That sounds great!” she says of discovering the flute in fifth grade.
Saltee credits her parents, Steve and Sara, with fostering a creative environment throughout her youth.
“My whole family valued art so greatly. I was always surrounded by artists. It was inevitable,” she says of becoming a musician.
Weidendorf says she has planned this scholarship over the last couple years as a way to “encourage the next generation of promising musicians.” Island Consort member Linda Morris donated a viola to the group well over a year ago, and when it sold last summer, Weidendorf realized her dream of making a scholarship for youth musicians.
“It was very serendipitous,” says Weidendorf.
Island Consort is an umbrella program of the Whidbey Island Arts Council, a not-for-profit organization. Island Consort accepts tax-deductible donations for the Youth Musician’s Scholarship, as well as for its operations.
Weidendorf plans to put together another annual scholarship, this one for adult working musicians on the island. She comes to tears when she explains the importance of supporting the arts.
“If you love music, you need musicians. If you love art, you need artists. If you love literature, you need writers,” says Weidendorf.
Whidbey Island Arts Council president Kay Parsons sings praise for Weidendorf’s hard work bringing in the grant.
“I haven’t figured out when Sheila sleeps,” says Parsons.
An anonymous committee of professional musicians chose Saltee as the unanimous winner, demonstrating excellence in musicianship and a commitment to pursuing further classical music studies.
“I would like to thank my sax teacher Neil Welch. I’ve been taking lessons with him since sixth grade and he’s a huge reason why I’m here,” says Saltee.
In a statement, Welch says, “Annie is a kind, generous and animated person that lights up the room in her subtle and powerful way. These are traits that will prove invaluable in her musical future.”
Saltee will perform a baritone saxophone solo, the same as she played in one of her application video submissions, at Island Consort’s May 20 concert, an all-French program at Langley United Methodist Church.