LPO Annual Young Artists’ Concerto Competition

Kindergarten – 12th Grade

The LPO Annual Young Artists’ Concerto Competition took place at Tulane University’s Dixon Hall on Saturday, October 1, 2022.

Participants will be required to perform one movement of a standard concerto or short piece for their instrument and orchestra. The selection should be no longer than ten minutes in duration and must be a piece that has an orchestra accompaniment (no solo piano sonatas, for example). Contestants must also provide their own accompanists. The competition will be divided into two categories: Grades K-8 and grades 9-12. All previous contestants are strongly encouraged to participate (winners of previous year’s competition are ineligible). A committee of musicians from the LPO will select the winners.

Valerie Gaffney will perform the first movement of Violin Concerto in C Major by Dmitry Kabalevsky with the LPO on February 8, 2023 at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center at 10 AM.

Sebastien Barrau will perform the first movement of Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff with the LPO on February 10, 2023 at Chalmette High School at 9:30 AM.

Congratulations to the 2022-23 Winners!

K-8 Division Winner

Valerie Gaffney, violin
Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies

Valerie first decided she wanted to become a violinist in a small diner in the verdant city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, at the teensy age of four. She started studying piano at age of three under the direction of Johana Faraj, (and still does piano with her virtually) and violin at four. She is now an 11-year old sixth grader at Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies.

One and a half years later, Valerie relocated to the United States and began violin lessons with Janeta Mavrova and has studied under her since. She joined the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra (GNOYO) in 2016, and was the winner of the Young Soloist Concerto Competition of GNOYO in the Philharmonia section in its 2021-2022 season. She also won a violin competition in the Junior Philharmonic Society of New Orleans in 2021.

A talented theatre, music, art, and gifted student, Valerie enjoys a wide range of activities such as being in musicals, tap, studying foreign languages, and drawing digitally on her Huion Kamvas. She also takes pleasure in spending time with her friends at the school library, studying or laughing with them, and spending time with her family, who she couldn’t be more grateful for. She’s determined to have some impact in the world, whether that being in the medical field or the astronautic engineering field when she grows up.

A huge fan of San-X, Valerie adores Sumikko Gurashi, Pusheen, Gudetama, Rilakkuma, and Hello Kitty. She will be playing the first movement of Concerto in C Major by Kabalevsky.

High School Division Winner

Sebastien Barrau, piano
Benjamin Franklin High School//NOCCA

Sebastien Barrau is currently a 17-year-old senior at both Benjamin Franklin High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He started playing the piano at age 5 with Mrs. Donna Settoon, and has studied under Dr. Hristo Birbochukov, chair of the Classical Instrumental department at NOCCA, since the 7th grade. He also attended Interlochen Arts Summer Camp in 2017 and has been a participant of the New Orleans Piano Institute since 2018.

Throughout the years, Sebastien has received multiple piano performance awards from The New Orleans Music Teacher Association contests, The DeBose National Piano Competition, and The Gulf Coast Steinway Competition. Most recently he received the 2022 Lawrence and Victoria Blanchard Chamber Ensemble Award from the Junior Philharmonic Society of New Orleans, placed 1st in the High School Division of the 2022 NOLA Chamber Fest with his chamber partner, Grace Fortune, and placed 2nd at the 2022 New Orleans Piano Institute Concerto Competition.

Whenever he is not practicing, Sebastien enjoys composing in various styles, studying the Bible, and retro video gaming. He also enjoys being part of his church worship team and leading the Christ in Action club at Ben Franklin.  In addition to attaining his highest level as a pianist and studying math, Sebastien wishes to become a composer and keep his faith alive through service.

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