Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts Presents the 9th Annual Instrumental Competition

Participants in the 29th Instrumental Competition (L to R): Sergio Coelho (clarinet), Cameron   Rahmani (bass trombone), Kyle Kremer (trumpet), Signe Somer (clarinet), Christina Mateo Saez   (clarinet), Riria Niimura (piccolo), Charles Seo (cell), and Benjamin Lash (cello).Clarinetist, Cristina Mateo Saez, won the Grand Prize for Exceptional Talent and MusicianshipSecond Place winner for Woodwinds, Sergio CoelhoSecond Place winner for Brass, Julian ZhengFirst Place winner for Woodwinds, Riria NiimuraHonorable Mention for Brass, Kyle Kremer


12:07 pm | December 12, 2014

It was an exciting Saturday afternoon when Pasadena Showcase House of the Arts (PSHA) held its 29th Annual Instrumental Competition on November 15 at the world-class performing arts school, The Colburn School, located in downtown Los Angeles. Eleven talented musicians, aged 19 to 24, competed for monetary prizes totaling $27,000 in the categories of woodwinds, brass, and strings. The competition, designed to encourage and reward students who display superior musical ability, is part of PSHA’s ongoing effort to support music education. Over the course of 29 competitions, PSHA has awarded nearly $580,000 in prizes.

“We are honored to support and encourage these students’ musical endeavors,” said PSHA President Katherine Watkins. “Listening to these talented musicians play live is magic. You feel their passion and hard work through their performances,” added PSHA Instrumental Competition Chair Suzanne Hart.

Nineteen-year-old clarinetist, Cristina Mateo Saez, won the Grand Prize for Exceptional Talent and Musicianship in the amount of $6,000. Saez, who began playing clarinet when she was 5-years-old, moved to Los Angeles three months ago from Almeria, Spain and is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Music at The Colburn School.

“I knew from the first time I played that this is what I wanted to do forever,” said Saez. “I love classical music. I am always listening to classical music.”

PSHA awarded ten other prizes. First Place winners, Benjamin Lash (Strings) and Riria Niimura (Woodwinds), each received $4,000. Second Place prizes in the amount of $2,500 went to Annelle Gregory (Strings), Sergio Coelho (Woodwinds), and to Julian Zheng and Cameron Rahmani who tied (Brass). Honorable Mentions in the amount of $500 were awarded to Usha Kapoor (Strings), Signe Somer (Woodwinds) and Kyle Kremer (Brass), and the Jack Smith Memorium Award for Most Promising Talent in the amount of $1,500 was awarded to Charles Seo.

After their performance, the winners shared some comments that underscore the value of music and highlight the importance of music education.

Niimura – “When I play, I feel like I drift to the era when it was composed.”
Lash – “There is no limit what you can learn from music.”
Coelho – “The clarinet fits me. It lets me show my creativity, my emotions.”
Gregory – “I can express in music what I cannot express in words.”
Kapoor – “I like to be in the moment. And, with music I can do that.”

Twenty-seven students from Southern California entered the highly-esteemed competition. The eleven finalists competed in front of a seven-person judging panel including five members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra: Elise Henry (Second Flute), Paul Stein (Second Violin), Brian Johnson (Bass), Patricia Kindel (Bassoon), and Gregory Roosa (Second Horn); Eric Jacobs (Clarinet) of What’s Next Ensemble; and Rob Schaer (Trumpet) of the Los Angeles Brass Ensemble.

“It is important that the finalists are recognized for their talent and their dedication,” said Instrumental Competition Judging Chair Elise Henry. “The funds from the competition help them pay for additional training and other materials to further their education.”

The prize monies for the Instrumental Competition are provided from the proceeds of PSHA’s annual benefit event, the Pasadena Showcase House of Design, which takes place April 19 to May 17, 2015. Tickets to the Showcase House go on sale February 4, 2015. To purchase tickets, or for more information about PSHA, please visit

To date, PSHA has donated over $20 million to music programs and to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, including a $1 million donation to Walt Disney Concert Hall.