Meet the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalists! Part 2

Ten outstanding young musicians were selected as semi-finalists for the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition. From throwing tantrums to wearing fancy dresses – these contestants share their fondest memories of their musical backgrounds.

Hear these talented contestants perform in the 2017 Ima Hogg semi-finals competition Thursday, June 1, at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Kiril Angelov, 24

Kiril Angelov, xylophone

Kiril Angelov, marimba

Kiril grew up in the north part of Bulgaria in the small town of Pleven and started playing the snare drum and xylophone at 6 years old.  

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career? 

KA:  My mother is a piano teacher in the high school I graduated from. That was very important and had a big impact on my musical views and practice methods.  I was also playing piano back then and always tried to compare and find similarities and differences between percussion and piano.  This helped me to see and understand music from different perspectives. 

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

KA:  I only remember my very first lesson in which I felt really energetic and excited even though I was probably nervous.  I liked standing behind the instrument from the very first moment.  

HS:  Who is your favorite composer and why? 

KA:  I very much enjoy the music of Bach.  His music is so special that it can sound and be accepted in so many different ways.  Also the fact that it is playable on most of the instruments we have now is fascinating.

Michael Ferri, 21

Michael Ferri, violin

Michael Ferri, violin

Michael was born in Italy and began studying violin at age 3. He’s currently studying at Rice University.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career? 

MF:  My parents raised me in a very musical setting.  As soon as I started speaking, I began to ask my parents to play an instrument.  Even before this, I could frequently be found watching orchestras on PBS, conducting them with a chopstick. 

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances? 

MF:  Although I greatly enjoyed practicing and performing, I spent my first full year of violin lessons throwing tantrums and crying on the floor. Come to think of it, most of my violin lessons at present are quite similar.  Among my first memories of performances, one in particular stands out:  while playing a Suzuki concert, I played the last note of my piece, and accidentally lost control of my bow, sending it flying into the audience. 

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod? 

MF:  The art of Ivry Gitlis, Michael Rabin 1936-1972, Heifetz playing Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn, The Doors: The Best Of, Tom Waits – Blue Valentine. 

Rainer Crosett, 25

Rainer Crosett, cello

Rainer Crosett, cello

Rainer grew up outside of Boston and started on piano at age 5 and cello at age 9. 

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances? 

RC:  My first cello teacher was a wonderful school orchestra director, but she was mainly a violinist, so for a while, I had a violin-style bow grip! The first orchestra rehearsals I had at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School were defining moments for me; I was blown away by the range of sounds an orchestra can make. 

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you? 

RC:  Ben Zander, who has been one of my mentors ever since I played in his youth orchestra in Boston, has been one of the most powerful influences in my life.  His boundless enthusiasm for music and his profoundly optimistic perspective on life have deeply affected who I am today. 

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod? 

RC:  Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2(Cleveland/Fleisher/Szell, Mozart Divertimento K563 (Kremer, Kashkashian, Ma), Dvorak Cello concerto (Chicago/du-Pre/Barenboim), Beethoven Piano Sonata in E Major Op. 109 (Richter), Beethoven Violin Sonata in G Major Opl 96 (Kavakos/Pace)

Rachel Ostler, 24

Rachel Ostler, violin

Rachel Ostler, violin

Rachel grew up in Dallas in a musical family and started playing the violin at age 2.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career? 

RO:  I am so lucky because I grew up with siblings who were all musically inclined, and we played string quartets all the time!  Chamber music has always been close to my heart, at least partially because of this.  Even though none of my siblings have pursued music professionally, they are extremely supportive. 

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you? 

RO:  The obvious answer is really my parents.  Such an incredible amount of support from them.  But, artistically, speaking, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s writings quite heavily impacted me when I first discovered him, and are still a source of inspiration for me. 

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod? 

RO:  Barber Violin Concerto 2nd movement, Bach Andante from the A minor sonata, and probably a couple Radiohead songs. 

Vijay Venkatesh, 26

Vijay Venkatesh, piano

Vijay Venkatesh, piano

Vijay grew up in Southern California and began playing the piano at age 4.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career? 

VV:  My older sister is a violinist and we love to collaborate in performances. Sibling bickering in rehearsal has taught me the element of reaching an agreement! While my parents are not musicians themselves, they inculcated in me a love for music through recordings and taking me to live performances.    

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you? 

VV: Some of my inspirations include my parents because they always supported me in everything I set out to do. Musical influences include my professors Norman Krieger and Jeffrey Kahane.  They inspire me to push the limits of my imagination, creativity and courage;  always encouraging me to be fearless.    

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod?

VV:  Brahms 2nd Concerto with Norman Krieger and the London Symphony, the entire discography of Dinu Lipatti, Murray Perahia playing Bach, Leonard Bernstein conducting Mahler 1, Fritz Kreisler performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Don’t miss the exciting conclusion of the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition on June 3! Get tickets and more info here.

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