Winners of Baylor’s Semper Pro Musica Competition to Perform at Renowned Carnegie Hall in New York City
Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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By Jenny LaPoint, Marketing and Communications Specialist, Baylor School of Music
WACO, Texas (March 3, 2022) — Seven student winners of Baylor University’s fifth biennial Semper Pro Musica Solo and Chamber Competition will perform at New York City’s prestigious Carnegie Hall in May.
Begun in 2016 and currently held every two years, the Semper Pro Musica Solo and Chamber Competition in the Baylor School of Music identifies the top talent in the School. After two rounds of rigorous competition, the winners have the opportunity to present a recital at a significant external performance venue.
The winners of the solo competition are master’s candidates:
- Sylvia Jones, a soprano vocalist from Auburn, Washington
- Cezary Karwowski, a pianist from Bialystok, Poland
- Max Winningham, a double bassist from Houston
The winner of the chamber competition is Baylor’s Fest Quartet, composed of:
- Violinist Freya Downey, a performance studies master’s candidate from Norman, Oklahoma
- Violinist Darren Carter, a senior applied music major from Dallas
- Violinist Elise Maas, a senior applied music major from San Antonio
- Cellist Samuel Day, a senior applied music major from Benton, Wisconsin
The students will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 26, in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, an elegant and intimate performance venue where many young musicians make their New York debuts.
Performing on stage at Carnegie is a lifetime achievement for the students declared winners, said Gary Mortenson, D.M.A, dean of the Baylor School of Music.
“There are no words to fully describe the thrill to walk onto one of the most historically important halls in the world and perform. New York City, like London and Paris, is at the very top of the cultural/artistic world. Weill Recital Hall is where about 98 percent of ‘Carnegie Hall Debuts’ take place, and it is arguably the most important recital space in the world over the last century,” Mortenson said. “The experience of performing there is truly an experience like no other in the world of music today, and our talented student winners will remember their performances at Carnegie Hall for the rest of their lives. These students are wonderful representatives of the excellence that we celebrate in the School of Music at Baylor University.”
For Jones, the meaning of performing in and winning the Semper Pro Musica Competition in her debut goes beyond the trip to New York City but has a rather profound generational significance.
“This was my first time competing in a competition like this. I'm proud of myself for taking a big step of faith and pushing myself to compete in Semper Pro,” said Sylvia Jones. “This is also a historic moment for the family. My grandmother grew up in Waco, but was not allowed on campus because of segregation at the time. It is truly incredible that one of her grandchildren is walking in places where she could not. To think about the number of great performers who have performed at Carnegie Hall is humbling. I am truly grateful to God for this opportunity.”
The Fest Quartet took on Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4, an immensely challenging and demanding piece to perform, Carter said, but one that is incredibly rewarding, especially when performing on a grand stage.
“There are few other works that display the full potential of this ensemble genre as effectively as Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4. Each of us has been extremely invested over the past months in performing this masterwork, as well as Caroline Shaw's ‘Valencia,’ to the best of our ability,” Carter said. “We are very excited to present them on such a prestigious stage, and above all we are grateful to the Baylor School of Music for such an amazing opportunity.”
For another student winner and member of the Fest Quartet, Maas said the support she has received leading up to the competition has been invaluable.
“Winning Semper Pro has made me incredibly grateful for those supporting me. Coaching with Nikita Pogrebnoy and my lessons with Dr. Eka Gogichashvili have been invaluable to both my personal success and the success of the Fest Quartet,” Maas said. “I could not ask for more support from my colleagues in the quartet because we have all been encouraging each other in this busy time of our lives, as we are all looking ahead to our careers as professional musicians after we graduate. Winning Semper Pro will definitely help us all in the future, and I know all four of us will look back on these months with great fondness and joy.”
ABOUT THE BAYLOR UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Celebrating the centennial year of its founding throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, the Baylor University School of Music provides transformational experiences that prepare students for careers in music. Students thrive in a Christian environment characterized by a nurturing resident faculty, an unwavering pursuit of musical excellence, a global perspective, dedication to service and devotion to faith. They investigate the rich musical and cultural heritage of the past, develop superior musical skills and knowledge in the present, and explore and create new modes of musical expression for the future. While preparing for future leadership roles, students join with School of Music faculty in enhancing the quality of community life, enriching the larger culture and making Baylor a place in which heart, mind and soul coalesce. Baylor’s School of Music is a member of the National Association of Schools of Music and the Texas Association of Music Schools. Degree programs include bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance, music education and academic majors, as well as doctoral degrees in church music. Degrees leading to the Bachelor of Music Education conform to certification requirements of the Texas Education Agency. Visit baylor.edu/music to learn more.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.