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Here Are Your 2021 Sounds Like KPAC Winners

The coronavirus pandemic kept TPR from inviting the public to our annual showcase of young talent, so this year, we decided to hold SOUNDS LIKE KPAC live on the radio instead!

While observing COVID protocols, middle and high school performers brought their talents to our studios on January 23, 2021 for the seventh annual competition, featuring solo and ensemble performances, a juried art show, and written word entries, all inspired by the classical music heard on Texas Public Radio’s KPAC 88.3 FM.

Although the public wasn't able to see the art in person or read the poetry and prose, we have compiled all the Finalists' entries on these two web pages:

The First Place winners in each category were:

SOLO MUSICIAN

Ellen Foreman, Kolbe Academy

ENSEMBLE MUSICIANS

Selah Flores & Ananya Lertpradist, homeschool/BASIS Shavano

VISUAL ART

Suchetha Pagadala, Health Careers HS

WRITTEN WORD

Catherine Day, North East School of the Arts

All of the musical performances, as well as interviews with select contestants, will be broadcast on KPAC 88.3 FM on Saturday, February 27 at 7 p.m. on “Performance Saturday,” Texas Public Radio’s weekly showcase of great performances from the stages of south central Texas. You can hear the music now in the Soundcloud link below.

The First Place winners in each category were awarded a $1,000 cash prize, funded by the Flohr Foundation and Dr. Lindsay Irvin of Alamo Heights Pediatrics, with additional support from Milton Babbitt, the Hart-Sheehy Fund, and Dr. Jatin Patel. Additional prizes for the First Place winners came from HEB.

Second and Third Place winners in the Solo Musician category were Ray Zhang and Elle Boehm-Leal. Second place winners in the Ensemble Musician category were an ensemble made up of Ian Fernandes, Jett Pittman, Sam Guven, Micah Gentles, and Noah Gentles. Second and Third Place winners in the Visual Art category were Josette Garcia and Tanya Lertpradist. Second and Third Place winners in the Written Word category were Soren Dickson and Gabrielle Beck.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Sounds Like KPAC is made possible by generous support from Antonio Strad Violin,  and Appraisals & Estate Sales by June Hayes.

The final round was adjudicated by Aaron Prado, professor of music at Northwest Vista College, Deborah MartinSan Antonio Express-News arts writer, and TPR's Norma Martinez.

WRITTEN WORD FIRST PLACE WINNER

"The Wings"
By Catherine Day
Inspired by the ballet "La Bayadere" by Ludwig Minkus.

The lights are usually the first thing you notice when you step out onstage; they shine like miniature suns from the rafters of the theater, irradiating the stage and eclipsing the midnight darkness of the audience. Tonight, that’s different; the stage is a twilight blue, the music floating like a gentle breeze, and all I focus on is the dancer in front of me, making sure that our steps are perfectly synced. Step one, two, three. Bring your leg up to arabesque, panché, bend forward. Graceful lines, keep the neck below the arms. Plié through fourth position, extend to third, breathe. Breathe. And again. And again, and again, just as the choreography demands. There are beads of sweat rolling down my spine, and my toes are screaming in protest inside my pointe shoes. Relevaé, and bring your arms to fifth position. I can feel the lights beating down on my forehead, bursting against my eyes. I smell the overpowering hairspray of the girl to my right. Extend your leg to battement, brush forward to tendu devant. The music swells, the violins hum and the harp sighs. I hold an arabesque, using the very last of my strength--then, I find more, and I keep going. Tonight is my debut in the corps de ballet with the most prestigious ballet company in the country, and I’m going to dance my very soul out on this stage.
~
It’s bedlam backstage as I steady my breath. Other dancers say their muscles feel like lead, but mine feel like sandbags, slowly leaking their contents--my energy--onto the floor. Behind me, people gulp down water, roll out their feet, and keep warm at one of the barres; we are all finding the stamina to keep going. We hustle to our places for the next variation, ready to leap back into the frey, as the danseur noble performs Solor’s entré into the mountaintop Kingdom of the Shades. Applause ripples from the audience as he lands an elegant asemblé, and although my legs are trembling in protest, I do a few pliés to keep them warm. The music swells, the timbre matching the tornado of jumps the danseur is now completing around the circumference of the stage. Leap--one, two, three, four, five--turn six, and land as the cymbals crash. At the sound of the cymbals, the prima ballerina is illuminated by spotlight, a dramatic entrance for a ghostly character. She begins to dance, approaching her long lost love with a tenderness and sorrow as deep as the night sky.

I have only a few minutes till we have to be in places. I should drink more water, or towel off some of the sweat from my soaked body, but the music reaches out a delicate hand, and I stop behind one of the curtained legs to watch the onstage alchemy of the pas de deux.

Even from the wings, I can see the glitter of sweat rolling down the principal’s back, the definition and tension in her muscles as she extends her leg into a beautiful developé. Though I’ve heard this melody in my dreams, danced this pas in my head a thousand times, I feel my breath catch. She seems to float out of her arabesque, arms extended gracefully to the heavens. I can see her next steps in my mind, but the way she brings them to life sends shivers up my spine. I close my eyes, and the bustle of backstage falls away.

All around me is mist, the ground rocky save for the smooth plateau where I stand. Above, the sky is a tapestry of gold and silver, and Solor stands at my side, his arms outstretched in longing. I run to him, grant my love a kiss, and the night is the music as we dance. We press together, then pull apart through a pirouette, him acting as my axis, my anchoring point as I spin beneath the stars. We leap together from moment to moment, celebrating our reunion through incessant movement and grace. He lifts my as though I am a bird, releasing me into the endless sky. Our dance--our love--is, like my body, ephemeral, but that only makes it more precious. We are finally free. Here on the mountain top, there are no expectations other than that we create something extraordinary.

The scene disappears with a rush of movement; I am brought back to the wings by a brush against my legs. The music plays across the stage, the notes greeting me, reminding me of all that is left tonight for me to do. Yet although my body still aches, my mind is now heady with a sense of anticipation for what will come. Not anticipation of failure or disaster, but for the second when the steps I’ve practiced a hundred times before become nothing less than magical. The moment when, like on the mountain top, you leap off your toes and take flight on the music; how the audience, transfixed by your every movement, seems to breathe with you when you fly into the air, and for a single second become a star in the sky. I will be the star I yearn to touch. Smiling, I take my place in line.

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Nathan has been with TPR since 1995, when he began working on classical music station KPAC 88.3 FM, as host of “Tuesday Night at the Opera.” He soon learned the ropes on KSTX 89.1 FM, and volunteered to work practically any shift that came his way, on either station. He worked in nearly every capacity on the radio before moving into Community Engagement, Marketing, and Digital Media. His reporting and criticism has been honored by the Houston Press Club and Texas Associated Press.