Winners of the VSA International Young Soloists Competition
1999 Award Recipients
1999 15th Anniversary Program
Panasonic Young Soloists Award Winner
Tony DeBloisAnthony DuBlois, a 26-year-old pianist from Waltham, MA has been playing the piano since age two. Born weighing 1 lb., 3/4 oz., Tony is blind, autistic and a musical savant. Tony received the Panasonic Young Soloists Award in 1992. Since his honor, Mr. DuBlois has earned a Certificate of Achievement from the Perkins School for the Blind and graduated magna cum laude from the Berklee College of Music.
His musical talent has won him numerous awards, including the coveted Reynolds Society Achievement Award (1996), the Foundation for Exceptional Children's prestigious "Yes, I Can" Award (1993) and the Panasonic Sponsored, VSA arts Itzhak Perlman Award (1992). As Tony's "Let me do it independently" attitude inspires the many people who meet him; his talents are being noticed internationally.
Stories about him have been broadcast on both National Public Broadcasting and Voice of America Radio Stations. Spots about him have aired in documentaries in Rome, Japan and London. Virginia Aronson's book (March 6, 1996) "Different Minds, Different Voices" contains a chapter about Tony and CBS has made a TV movie of the week "Journey of the Heart" which first aired on March 2, 1997 and was inspired by actual events in Tony's life. He also appeared on The Learning Channel's Understanding the Mysteries of Science and Strange Science.
In addition to his many concerts and performances around the country every year, Tony sings with the Newton Community Singers and the Corpus Christi Church Choir. Despite his full schedule, he still finds time to play with a rock 'n roll band and spends time with his girlfriend. Besides piano, Tony enjoys playing the organ, harmonica, guitar, harpsichord, English handballs, violin, banjo, drums and trumpet. For Tony, there are no "roadblocks" but mere obstacles to be cast aside or skirted. His favorite phrase seems to be "I haven't learned that yet."
Robin YuRobin Yu, Robin Yu, a 19-year-old instrumentalist who has Acid Maltase Deficiency, is the recipient of the 1997 Panasonic Young Soloists Award. With a natural talent for music, Ms. Yu started playing the violin at the age of 6 and made her debut as a soloist with the Oregon Symphony at the age of 16. Since then, she has performed for President Clinton and numerous classical and benefit events for local nonprofit organizations. Among these events are Kids on the Block Awareness Program, Loaves and Fishes, Oregon State University Foundations, Portland Center for Performing Arts, and the Collins Foundation. Ms. Yu has received numerous awards that have served to recognize and honor her musical excellence including her selection to perform as the Yamaha Young Artist at Illinois State University in 1998. Among her broadcast debuts, Yu has been featured on Portland radio station KBPS-FM and Portland TV Channel 8 as "Super Student." Selected for her musical excellence Yu was chosed to be the first violinist with the Charivari String Quartet and continues to build her distinguished career.
Matthew VollbrechtMatthew Vollbrecht, a 15-year-old singer who is blind, was the recipient of the Panasonic Young Soloists Award in 1994. Mr. Vollbrecht's young career began at the tender age of two when he learned how to play the piano. Remarkably, he finished his first composition by the time he was eight, and was honored by VSA arts at only ten years of age; he remains the youngest recipient of the award in VSA arts history.
Demonstrating his exceptional talent for music, Mr. Vollbrecht has performed with the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, sung solo for the "Stand for Children" rally for a crowd of 250,000, and performed at the "Race for a Cure." Through a variety of appearances, Mr. Vollbrecht has shared the stage with and performed for First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President and Mrs. Gore and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Matthew is also a featured artist in VSA arts' 25th Anniversary publication, 'The Journey to Here'.
Laurie RubinLaurie Rubin, a 1997 Panasonic Young Soloists Award recipient, is now one of Southern California's most sought-after young vocalists. Only twenty years old, she is already known for her mature and expressive mezzo-soprano voice, with which she performs opera in five languages, as well as Hebrew cantorial, Yiddish folk, and Latin liturgical music.
Ms. Rubin has performed at events honoring the likes of General Norman Schwarzkopf, Lady Margaret Thatcher, and Rupert Murdoch, and was the sole entertainment at a private dinner party given by President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. In addition, she performed the national anthem at the 1993 inauguration of Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan after being asked by the Mayor personally to do so.
Ms. Rubin began studying classical music ten years ago, and spent this past July in Casalmaggorie, Italy studying and performing opera scenes, German lieder, and singing in various cathedrals in and around Parma. She also spent two summers training at Boston University's Tanglewood Institute. In addition to the Panasonic Young Soloists Award, Ms. Rubin has won several other honors, including the 1998 Sergio Franchi Scholarship Award for Classical Voice, the 1997 Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award in the Classical Voice category, the 1996 Southern California Vocal Association Soloist Award, and the DeanÕs Talent Scholarship Award at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
Ms. Rubin's triumphs are not exclusively musical. Born blind, she has become an advocate for and educator about the rights of people with disabilities. She served on the National Consumer Advisory Council for Descriptive Video Service, the organization that records and broadcasts descriptions of major motion pictures and televised programs for people who are blind, and she was profiled for the films Careers in Focus and Being Blind: Inspirational Stories. Ms. Rubin is currently in her second year at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where she studies with Professor Richard Miller.
"Since I started training as a classical singer, my dream has been to be able to sing in the great concert halls of Europe and the United States... to be able to share and communicate through the means of music anywhere I can.... [When I] found out that I was the winner of the Panasonic Young Soloists Award... my first thought was, 'Oh WOW! I'll be able to sing at the Kennedy Center!'... I realized that this was the greatest encouragement to keep going for that dream... and it shows people that...musicians with disabilities can and will go after their dreams."
International Young Soloists Award
Angel Rodriguez XucurAngel Rodriguez Xucur, a 28-year-old guitarist and vocalist who is blind, was a 1996 Rosemary Kennedy Young Soloists Award recipient, an honor which helped launch his musical career. Mr. Rodriguez Xucur began his music career in 1984 when he entered the Estudiantina, a music school in Guatemala, where he studied music and devoted himself to guitar and percussion.
Since his Young Soloists Award, he recorded his first LP and CD with eight original title tracks. He participated in a nationwide radio program, "New Concept", and performed at televised concerts. Mr. Rodriguez Xucur attributes his extensive accomplishments to the support of Artes Muy Especiales Guatemala [VSA arts of Guatemala].