Ma Lin wins Ima Hogg Concerto Competition

Updated: 2014-06-02 06:00

By MAY ZHOU in Houston (China Daily USA)

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Ma Lin wins Ima Hogg Concerto Competition

First place winner Ma Lin (second from right) in Houston Symphony's Ima Hogg Concerto Competition shares a pose with other three finalists: second place winner Yekwon Sunwoo (second from left), third place winner Maria Chlebus (right) and fourth place and Choice Award winner Fedor Amsov.  MAY ZHOU / CHINA DAILY

Ma Lin, a clarinet soloist from Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, won the first place in Houston Symphony's Ima Hogg Concerto Competition on Saturday night, taking away $25,000 in prize and earning a solo appearance with Houston Symphony in July. He played Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 2.

The other three finalists - Yekwon Sunwoo, Maria Chlebus and Fedor Amsov - won second to fourth place respectively. Fedor Amsov also won the Choice Award as voted by the audience. The final was conducted in the form of a concert with each finalist soloing with the Houston Symphony.

After the announcement, Ma's professor, Richie Hawley, went on stage and gave him a big hug to congratulate him. Hawley, who was beaming more than the very reserved Ma, told China Daily: "I feel proud of Lin. He deserves it, he works so hard. This is the best I ever heard him playing."

"Tonight's performance will be an unforgettable experience for the rest of my life," said Ma. "This is the first time I participated in a major competition. I am very grateful for the winning experience."

Ma said he was gratified being selected as one of the four finalists. So, winning the top prize is like "icing on the cake". He also said he wants to share the honor with his family, his teachers and friends.

Ma admits he isn't a competitive person and that's why he never participated in a major competition until this event. "From preparation to competition, I have learned a lot," he added.

When talking about the upcoming solo appearance with Houston Symphony, Ma expressed confidence. "I am looking forward to it and I believe I can do better in July."

Ma has compiled an impressive track record in performing. In the past a few years, he was selected to participate in the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra debut tour at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.

He has also performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Also he soloed with the National Repertory Orchestra after winning the NRO Concerto Competition last year. Early this year, Ma worked with the Houston Grand Opera on its production of Das Rheingold.

What's more, prior to the competition, Ma signed a half-year contract with Houston Symphony starting June, an opportunity coveted by many music students.

Born in Hunan, Ma started playing instrument early on. "My father wanted me to learn an instrument as a hobby when I was little, so I learned to play saxophone at a very young age," Later it was realized that Ma actually had a got gift in music, so he took the test and was admitted to the prestigious middle school at the Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM) in Beijing when he was 12.

Saxophone wasn't offered at the CCOM so he turned to a similar instrument - the clarinet. "It was easy," Ma said of the transition of instruments.

But the transition from home to living on his own as a 12-year-old was not. "I could not take care of myself that well. I remember my father came to visit me in Beijing and found wet clothes in my closet. I did not know that you have to air dry them after taking the clothes out of the washing machine." Ma recalled.

After high school Ma came to the US to pursue music education. He earned his Bachelor of Music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio before coming to Rice and completing his Master of Music last month.

Ma is currently pursuing his Artist Diploma at Rice University with becoming a solo performing artist as his goal. This program of two years primarily focuses on stage performance training.

"The path of music is very hard. If anyone wants to just pursue fame and success through music, it would be a raw deal. One must have enthusiasm, gift and be willing to work hard to have a career in music. I really enjoy the process of playing music. To me, the love of music is the love of life itself," said Ma.

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