By David Dow Bentley III “The People’s Critic”
[All Photos by ThePeoplesCritic.com. Click any photo to enlarge]
For the many Montgomery County supporters of the annual Young Texas Artists Music Competition (www.ytamc.com), the last Friday of October was a splendid opportunity for an elegant night out in celebration of some of the brilliant young talents the organization has encouraged. Under the skillful direction of YTA President and CEO, Susie Pokorski, the gala event was titled, CLASSICS AT THE GLADE, and featured a champagne reception, cocktail buffet, and renowned concert classics performed by three of YTA’s former winners.
The affair was held at The Woodlands’ stunning new arts venue, The Glade Cultural Center (www.gladeculturalcenter.com). The center is perfect for private events and receptions, and also provides a unique and accessible fine arts experience for visitors, with a hosted fine art gallery and antiquities.
Valet parking was provided, and as YTA guests stepped from their cars they were warmly greeted at the door by Mrs. Pokorski and her husband Jim. Once inside, visitors were surrounded by lovely artwork and photography on the many walls that surrounded the open bar, the numerous hot and cold buffet areas and a tasty dessert table.
The hot Shrimp & Grits station was a favorite of many, and all the while guests enjoyed fine dinner music from accompanist and pianist for the evening, Craig Stephan.
Then, once the visitors had time to eat, drink and tour around the art displays,
Pokorski welcomed the crowd to be seated for the featured performances as she introduced the host for the evening, familiar YTA favorite, Jade Simmons, the CEO of Jade Media Global, and also host of the hit American Public Media podcast, “Decomposed.”
A talented performer herself, Simmons has entertained at both the White House and Supreme Court, and in recent years has also hosted many of the YTA Competitions of Finalists at Conroe’s Crighton Theatre. Before this evening would end she would share a short video about the YTA organization, and then again show her skill as an interviewer by calling the three featured soloists on stage for a delightful exchange about their lives as professional performers.
Simmons then introduced 25 year-old Zhi-Yuan Luo, who began playing clarinet at age 12. Currently studying for his master’s degree in Austin at The University of Texas, he was winner of both the Silver Medal and Audience Choice Award during the 2019 Young Texas Artists Music Competition last March. On this occasion, he would dazzle the audience with “Untitled Work for Clarinet and Electronics”, an unusual composition by S. Greene. Performed under smoky blue lighting, the piece involved accompaniment for his skillful clarinet performance from a small, neon bordered speaker system, synchronizing an unusual digital electronic score to the artist’s solo performance. Generous with his talent, when the regular program concluded, he stepped mid-room, clarinet in hand, and provided after-dinner music while guests mingled and enjoyed the artwork on display.
Next up was gifted concert pianist, Artem Kuznetsov. Russian by birth, in 2004 he was featured in “Gifted Children of Russia.” A successful veteran of many music competitions, he was winner of both the Piano Division Gold Medal and the Grand Prize in this year’s aforementioned Young Texas Artists Music Competition. Currently studying at Rice University, he volunteers in musical outreach to under-served communities, has a debut album slated for release this fall, and will soon perform with the Allen Philharmonic and the Texas Medical Center Orchestra. On this occasion his superb piano skill was on full display as he performed Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”, brilliantly capturing all the subtle nuances and transitions of the complex work.
The final guest performer was soprano, Jessica E. Jones, a veteran of the 2012 Young Texas Artists competition. With a wide repertoire and a master’s degree in performance from the prestigious Moore’s School of Music at the University of Houston, she has gone on to perform with opera companies in Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho and Montana. More recently she became a Grammy Award winner for her performance on the Best Opera Recording of 2019: The(R)evolution of Steve Jobs. At this YTA gala she easily validated her stellar reputation with a joyous performance of Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro,” from Gianni Schicchi, and a wondrous rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s, “Think of Me,” from Phantom of the Opera. The rousing audience reception precipitated her radiant and theatrical encore of Lerner & Lowe’s delightful, “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady. A more joyful conclusion could not have been hoped for.
A member of both The Lambs Club Inc. and The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), the columns of DAVID DOW BENTLEY III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: www.ThePeoplesCritic.com . E-mail may be directed to ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.