ECU student and saxophonist Nathan Graybeal performs on stage with a group.

After many hours of practice East Carolina University finalists are ready to compete tonight in the Concerto Competition Finals in the AJ Fletcher Recital Hall at 7:30.

Director of the school of music Chris Ulffers said this annual event is preceded by preliminary auditions in four areas: strings, woodwinds, bass and percussion, and voice. One winner is selected from each group to perform in the finals, according to Ulffers.

He explained that the finals are a wonderful opportunity for students to prepare quality work and the performance is quite a large one itself.

“The point of the competition is to determine one student who will perform a concerto or comparable work with the ECU Symphony in February. It is also an incredible opportunity for our most motivated students to prepare a large concert work. Other than their senior recital, this is one of the biggest performances our students will have on campus,” Ulffers said.

Senior saxophone performance major and the first saxophonist to win in over a decade in 2018, Nathan Graybeal, explained his purpose in competing last year.

“I wanted to compete because winning a concerto competition is a powerful feature in a music resume. Landing a job in the music industry after college is competitive, so it’s important for me to gain any edge I can get,” Graybeal said.

Graybeal went on to say that he wanted to compete in the competition during his sophomore year, but with guidance from his professor, Dr. Jeff Blair, he decided to withdraw from the competition. He now thanks his professor for his guidance and mentorship.

“Junior year, he trained me super hard. I owe my victory to him, he is an incredible teacher, mentor, and player. I don’t think I would have been able to pull it off without his guidance,” Graybeal said.

Music composition and mathematics double major, Nick Bellardini, is this year’s bass and percussion nominee.

He said he choose a piece that is not only difficult to perform, but is also extraordinarily long. During his practices, he has gone through many ups and downs in perfecting the piece.

“The biggest hurdle to overcome is memorizing the piece. In my case, the Gregson concerto is 18 minutes long, over three movements and not only do you have to memorize the individual notes and rhythms but also the space in-between when you are playing, to make sure you start playing again in the right spot,” Bellardini said.

Bellardini also said that he has learned a lot about trusting himself, and second guessing himself. He has pushed to apply this mentality not only in music, but outside of it as well.

“Performing a concerto from memory for the first time has taught me a lot about trusting myself. The first time I performed it from memory, I forgot a small section and sustained the wrong note at the wrong time,” Bellardini said. “What I took away from that was to trust my gut feeling and commit because in the end, the audience won’t notice if you play something terribly wrong, but do it very confidently.”

The event is free and open to the public.

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