Doublestop Foundation

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[New York, New York] – On Sunday, September 6, 2015, at NYU’s Frederick Loewe Theatre, Room 303, Doublestop Foundation presented ‘The Finalists’ program, part of the third annual Instrument Loan Competition.

Six deserving musicians from across the country traveled to Manhattan in pursuit of a fine stringed instrument loan from Doublestop Foundation and the coveted title of Ambassador. The Finalists, violinists Jeongwon An, Rebecca Benjamin, Anita Dumar, and Emily Shehi, and bassists Michael Franz and Michael Fuller, each prepared a 20-minute recital program that included a movement of unaccompanied Bach, concerto movement, and virtuosic piece. The judging committee of Stephanie Baer, Director of Strings Studies, NYU; Timothy Cobb, Principal Double Bass, New York Philharmonic; Michelle Kim, President & Artistic Director, Doublestop Foundation; and Matthew Way, Executive Director, Doublestop Foundation, named three Ambassadors, violinists Emily Shehi and Rebecca Benjamin and bassist Michael Franz.

New for the 2015 Competition, each Finalist was invited to participate in the inaugural Audience Choice Award contest, and five of the six Finalists accepted the challenge. Each participant, use their YouTube video audition submission to promote themselves via social media. The participating Finalist who accumulated the most ‘likes’ (not views) until 48-hours prior to ‘The Finalists’ program would be crowned the first-ever Audience Choice Award winner and recipient of a $500 cash prize. With more than 300 ‘likes,’ an average of more than one like per day, bassist Michael Fuller took home the title and prize.

The 2015 Ambassadors

rebecca-benjaminBorn in Warsaw, IN, violinist Rebecca Benjamin, 22, is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in violin performance under the tutelage of Joel Smirnoff and Joan Kwuon at the Cleveland Institute of Music. 

Rebecca has soloed with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Cleveland Institute of Music orchestra and the Masterworks Festival Orchestra. Other notable performances include the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series at the Cultural Center in Chicago, and at the Harris Theater in Chicago, IL, and Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. Her master class appearances have included Robert Lipsett, Itzhak Perlman, and Donald Weilerstein, among others. Rebecca has participated in several summer music festivals, including the Perlman Music Program and the Aspen Music Festival. Her previous instructors include Almita and Roland Vamos and Derek Reeves.

Rebecca performs on a violin made by Giovanni Pistucci in 1890, a loan made possible with the generous support of Mr. Henry Choi and for winning Doublestop Foundation’s Instrument Loan Competition in 2015.

Michael FranzBorn in Burlington, VT, bassist Michael Franz, 22, began his training at the late age of 15. Three years later, Michael entered the Eastman School of Music in Rochester where he went on to graduate with high distinction, earning him a bachelor’s degree in Applied Double Bass and Music Education. He is formerly a participant in the New York String Orchestra and the Moritzburg Festival, and has performed with the Northeastern Pennsylvania, Erie, and Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestras as well as the Opera Company of Middlebury.

A passionate educator, Michael volunteered to teach string music at Rochester’s Enrico Fermi School No. 17 and developed teaching experience at the Victor and Webster Central School District. Michael is a bass fellow at The Orchestra Now, a unique training orchestra and master’s degree program in residence at Bard College.

Michael performs on a double bass made by Thomas Martin in Henley-On-Thames, England in 2002, a loan made possible with the generous support of Mr. Stephen W. Fillo and for winning Doublestop Foundation’s Instrument Loan Competition in 2015.

Emily Shehi

From Olathe, KS, violinist Emily Shehi, 17, studies with Noah Geller and Tiberius Klausner. Emily made her solo debut at the age 8 and has appeared as soloist with many orchestras. She has enjoyed performing at YoungArts Los Angeles, the Juilliard Starling-DeLay Symposium for Violin Studies, and on Kansas Public Radio. Emily received third prize at the 2015 Irving M. Klein International String Competition and first prize at the 2013 Kansas City Symphony Young Artist Competition, and in 2014, was asked to perform in a benefit concert featuring several past Competition winners. She has also performed in master classes for Sarah Chang, Ronald Copes, Ani Kavafian, and Midori, among others. Last summer, Emily was named a Dorothy Richard Starling Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and School and studied with Robert Lipsett. She was recently featured on NPR’s From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley at Harris Hall in Aspen, show 310.

Emily performs on a violin made by Mario Miralles in 2013, a loan made possible with the generous support of Augustin Hadelich and for winning Doublestop Foundation’s Instrument Loan Competition in 2015.

The Inaugural Audience Choice Award

Michael Fuller_low-resBorn in Philadelphia, bassist Michael Fuller, 22, recently completed a master’s degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music under the guidance of Mr. Timothy Pitts. Michael has performed with many ensembles, including the National Repertory Orchestra, the Houston Latin Philharmonic, and the Chautauqua Festival Orchestra, and he is a former participant in the Roundtop Festival and New York String Orchestra Seminar led by Jaime Laredo. He also earned a bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music while studying with Mr. James VanDemark. Michael is honored to have received full-tuition scholarships for both his undergraduate and graduate studies, which enabled him to pursue a career in music performance. He continues the musical journey this fall in Miami Beach, FL, as a Double Bass Fellow with the New World Symphony. In addition winning the Audience Choice Award, Doublestop Foundation graciously provided Michael with a one-year loan, a  “Luigi Chiericato” model bass made by Barrie Kolstein in 2008, made possible with a generous donation from Kolstein Music, Inc.

For a link to Michael’s award winning YouTube video performance please click HERE.