County's Rising Star finalists to perform

The Baltimore Sun

The Howard County Arts Council will hold its fifth Rising Star Emerging Performing Artists Award competition tomorrow night as part of its gala Celebration of the Arts.

Ten instrumentalists, singers and dancers were chosen as finalists in an audition process in January. Each has to be between the ages of 18 and 35 and be, or have been, living, working, performing regularly or receiving training in Howard County. They also had to demonstrate a commitment to a career in the arts.

The finalists will perform at the celebration at Jim Rouse Theatre in Columbia, and the audience will vote on who receives $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000 awards that night. The arts council hopes to encourage the winners' professional development and give artists with local ties a venue to perform.

"We just, of course, love this format and so does the audience," said Coleen West, director of the arts council. "It is just one of those things that has captured the public's imagination."

The following finalists will perform tomorrow night:

Caroline Bowman, an 18-year-old graduate of Glenelg High School, is earning a bachelor's degree in musical theater at Penn State University. She has performed at Toby's Dinner Theatre and plans to pursue a career on stage.

Caitlin Donovan is a vocalist earning her master's degree at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and teaches choral music at Hollifield Station Elementary School and Burleigh Manor Middle School. She would like to use the Rising Star Award for post-graduate studies.

Joel Holmes is a jazz pianist who graduated from the Peabody Conservatory. He teaches at Baltimore School for the Arts and at the Music & Arts Center in Ellicott City, and he would like to use the award to record and promote a second album.

Natalia Jenkins of Ellicott City is earning a bachelor's degree in music at Oberlin College's Conservatory of Music after studying violin for 12 years in Howard County. She was the concertmaster of several local orchestras in elementary and high school and she plans to pursue a career in violin performance.

Emma Jensen of Ellicott City earned a bachelor's degree in vocal performance at the Peabody Conservatory and was a finalist in the 2005 Rising Star competition. She has studied with singers Liliana Nikiteanu and Ileana Cotrubas and plans to continue her music education.

Phil Olejack is a singer from Silver Spring who has performed at Toby's Dinner Theatre, Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va., and in the national tour of Seussical The Musical. He is seeking to land more professional roles in musical theater.

Jason Shafer, an Atholton High School graduate, is studying clarinet performance at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. He studied clarinet with Kyle Coughlin at Howard Community College and would like one day to join a professional orchestra.

Brandon Shaffer of Baltimore earned a bachelor's degree in music performance at Frostburg State University and has performed as a percussionist with the Ellicott City-based Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, among other groups. He plans to play marimba Saturday and wants to attend graduate school to study music.

Kuei-I Wu, a pianist from Columbia, has performed in several countries and has served as church pianist at Christ United Methodist Church in Columbia since 2002. She earned a doctorate from the University of Maryland, College Park and would like to record an album.

Tao-Chang Yu is a violinist from Columbia who earned a doctorate from the University of Maryland, College Park and has performed in national and international music events. He teaches students at a private studio in Columbia and is a guest faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory.

The Celebration for the Arts will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia. Information: 410-313-2787.

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