The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, currently wrapping up its 34th season, has named five Maine students who will be competing in a public performance to determine who wins the opportunity to perform with the orchestra during its upcoming 2024/25 season.

The five finalists in the 2024 edition of the competition are Enzo Zhou, violin; Heath Kennedy, tuba; Joshua Zhang, trombone; Miles Benson, trombone; and Oren Varess, piano.

The Judith Elser Concerto Competition finals take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, at the Franco Center in Lewiston. The performance is free and open to the public. The biennial competition honors the late Judith Elser, an orchestra cellist and board member, and offers any student attending a Maine college or university the opportunity to apply.

More information is available on the orchestra’s website, midcoastsymphony.org. Audiences are encouraged to reserve their free tickets in advance online or by calling the box office at (207) 481-0790.

Enzo Zhou attends Bowdoin College and was a 2020 graduate of Western Reserve Academy in Ohio where he served as concert master as well as being a featured soloist. He played for two summers at the Credo at Oberlin Conservatory and has studied with Dean Stein and Jin Yu.

Heath Kennedy is a student at the University of Maine in Orono. He grew up in the Portland area, graduating from Cape Elizabeth High School in 2022. He has performed with the Portland Youth Wind Ensemble and Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra and was honored with the John Philip Sousa Band Award while still in high school.

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Joshua Zhang studies at Colby College where he was its 2023 Concerto Competition winner. He grew up in Wayland, Massachusetts and was awarded National Association for Music Education All-National Honors Ensemble in 2020, as well as the John Philip Sousa Band Award in 2022. Other experiences include Interlochen Arts Camp World Youth Wind Symphony and Maine Music Education Association All State Honors Ensembles.

Miles Benson also attends Bowdoin College, after graduating from Duluth East High School in Duluth, Minnesota. He was the MMEA All-State Concert Band Section Leader in 2021 and 2022 and was awarded the Gus and Henrietta Hill Scholarship for Music when he graduated from high school.

Oren Varess is a full-time piano instructor who is earning their master’s degree in piano performance at the University of Southern Maine. They earned their undergraduate degree at the University of Southern Maine as well, where they won two concerto competitions and two Honors Recital Awards.

The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra is a community orchestra founded in 1990. Started as a chamber orchestra, there are now more than 80 members. The orchestra performs a full range of orchestral literature from the classical to modern periods with four regular concerts each season at the Franco Center in Lewiston and the Orion Performing Arts Center in Topsham. A community-based organization, the orchestra draws players and audiences from south of Portland to Rockland along the coast, and inland from Augusta to the Lewiston-Auburn area. Its members all volunteer their time to practice and perform with the Midcoast Symphony. Under the baton of Rohan Smith, the orchestra continues to attract ever more professional-caliber musicians and award-winning guest artists.


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