Only one of the performers will play with the orchestra this year, but all of them will show the talent that's in the Black Hills.
The 37th annual Black Hills Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at United Methodist Church.
Nineteen talented young music students from the Rapid City area — within a 180-mile radius of the city — will have a chance to showcase their talents. Eleven freshman to sophomore-aged students will take part in the junior division competing for cash prizes, while eight students from the 11th and 12th grades will compete in the senior division for cash prizes and a chance to perform with the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra.
"It's a pretty diverse group," said Heidi Strouth, member of the Symphony Board of Directors and chairperson for the Young Artist Competition. "We have seven pianists, a saxophonist, a clarinetist, your traditional violinists, violists and cellists, and a harpist."
That harpist is Maria Bunkers, 15, who is in her second year in the competition. She's described the previous year as a great, if challenging, experience.
"I hadn't ever competed in anything before and was pretty nervous, and my memory slipped partway through," Bunkers said. "I almost panicked, but I went back to a previous part in the song that was repeated throughout the piece and remembered the part. I got through it, and my friends in the competition didn't even notice."
That's part of the challenge, as each performer must memorize the piece, something Bunkers said she ultimately enjoyed struggling with.
"The hardest part is memorization, though eventually your muscle memory kicks in," Bunkers said. "It's easy to panic about it, but you get it eventually."
Bunkers has been playing for six years, and has worked to take on more difficult pieces each year. Last year, she made her way through Handel's Concerto in B flat major. This year sees her taking on a piece by Boieldieu.
"This is a quicker piece, and I like the diverse moods in it," Bunkers said. "Some parts are mysterious, others are happy and uplifting."
Another returning performer in the junior division is Ingrid Anderson, a 15-year-old violinist who's graduating from Bloch's "Nigun" to Sain-Saen's "Havanaise." She won first prize and $200 in the junior division last year.
"In that piece, there's a habanera rhythm with a triplet and two eighth-notes, and getting a feel for it can be difficult," Anderson said. "But it motivates you to practice more to get better and progress as a musician."
Anderson, too, has been performing for six years, and says that performing with orchestras is a major motivating factor for her.
"I just love making beautiful sounds that people will enjoy," Anderson said. "I enjoy performing for people, trying to perfect pieces and showing what I can do."
The competition can help those pursuing a career in music, but it's still a rewarding experience for those who do not. Anderson and Bunkers both said they didn't think they'd pursue music professionally, but that it gave them a chance to grow as musicians and gain new friends along the way.
"I have a lot of friends who competed, so apart from playing in a church with beautiful acoustics, I love to listen to their pieces and enjoy their work," Anderson said.
"It's cool to see what we're all capable of," Bunkers said. "You put in all of this time and work, and the end result is incredible."