The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 5, 2014

Concert series to showcase young musicians

Tom Lavis

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Concert Series continues its practice of featuring the winners of Pittsburgh Concert Society’s annual major auditions competition.

Sage Po, a harpist, and Sean Kennard, an award-winning pianist, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, 309 Lincoln St., downtown Johnstown.

Kennard, who earned his Master of Music from The Juilliard School in New York, has won top prizes in competitions in Belgium, Chile, Portugal, Japan and the United States.

Po is continuing her studies at Carnegie Mellon University.

The two young artists are winners of the prestigious Pittsburgh Concert Society major auditions, which are conducted each spring.

They are judged by nationally known adjudicators, including deans and faculty of leading schools of music. Candidates audition anonymously and are judged solely on the level of their performance and the quality of their program.

The Pittsburgh Concert Society was founded in 1943 and has since continued its mission of encouraging and developing music talent by providing financial rewards and formal performance opportunities to musicians living or studying within a 75-mile radius of Pittsburgh.

The Johnstown Concert Series shares the mission of encouraging talent and has been featuring winners from the major auditions for five seasons.

“Those who participate at this level of competition are typically professional musicians who are just getting started in their careers,” said Victoria Czarnek, board president of the the Johnstown Concert Series. “We appreciate being able to help them.”

The Johnstown Concert Series, formerly known as the Chamber Music Series of Greater Johnstown, prides itself for presenting a variety of music.

“This concert is classical, and will include lovely, melodic pieces that anyone would find easy to appreciate,” Czarnek said.

“Our criteria in choosing an artist or group is that their music be accessible and include hummable melodies that leave the audience feeling good,” Czarnek said.

Board member Laura Williamson said while the musical styles presented at this concert may be in a more classical vein than what the audience heard at the last concert, the level of performance skill demonstrated by the performers will be just as thrilling.

“What excites me personally about our concerts is not just how talented the musicians are, but how young most of them are,” Williamson said. “I hope the audience takes away from this concert and from our entire series an appreciation for good music making, optimism about the future of music and the talented young performers who are shaping that future.”

Kennard is playing three movements from Igor Stravinsky’s “Petrouchka.” The selections include “Danse Russe,” “Chez Petrouchka” and “La semaine grasse.”

He also will be performing  Frederic Chopin’s “Ballade in G minor, Op.23,” and “Polonaise in A-flat major, Op.53.”

Several of Po’s selections will include “Violin Sonata No. 3” by Johann Sebastian Bach, “Romance” by Francisco Palero and “Hachas” by Lucas Ruiz de Ribayas.

Kennard also has appeared as soloist with orchestras worldwide as well as the orchestras of Charleston, Sioux City and Honolulu.

Po spends most of the year in Pittsburgh, where she performs regularly as a soloist and chamber musician.

She became captivated with the harp at age 8 and began taking lessons with Celtic harpist Lisa Stine. After three years she shifted her focus to classical music, studying with Laura Porter, principal harpist of the Fresno Philharmonic.

She has performed across the country and been awarded numerous honors.  

Cost of admission is $15 or two tickets for $25 for adults, $10 for seniors, $5 for students.

Tickets are available at or at the door.

Billy Test and Friends will perform the Johnstown Concert Series final concert of the season May 24.

Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.