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Securing young violinist is something of a coup

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Santa Fe Concert Association is lucky that Jackie Tso agreed to come to town to play Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the association’s orchestra on Christmas Eve, because the 14-year-old violinist isn’t presenting many concerts outside of Ohio this season.

“I’m focusing on competitions,” she said by phone from Cincinnati. “The main one I’m preparing for is the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Concerto. I made the preliminary cut, which means I get to go to Beijing, China, to compete for 10 days in April.”

Tso, who was a guest artist with the Santa Fe Concert Association in 2009, was invited back by the association’s executive and artistic director, Joseph Illick, to play whatever piece she wanted.

If you go
WHAT: Santa Fe Concert Association’s Christmas Eve Concert with violinist Jackie Tso
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24
WHERE: Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco, Santa Fe
HOW MUCH: $20-$92. Call 505-988-1234 for tickets

“I decided since it’s Christmas Eve, I want to play something happy,” she said. “The first movement of the Mendelssohn is really passionate. The second is very sweet. And the third movement is the happiest. It’s a splendid concerto and very unique. I really love it.”

When Tso was 10 years old, she played the first movement of the Mendelssohn concerto with an orchestra. Although she was familiar with the work’s second and third movements four years ago, she had to spend a considerable amount of time practicing them for the Christmas Eve concert.

“I’m a pretty fast learner, but it’s a long process from learning the notes to being ready to perform the piece,” she said.

Tso enjoys playing lots of different concerti, but her favorite at the moment is Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. “Right now, I’m in love with it,” she added.

A violinist since age 4, Tso is a high school sophomore who balances life as a concert artist with life as a teenager. She trained in the Suzuki violin method for four years before joining the Starlight String Program at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. While Cincinnati is home and she is a member of the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra, she travels to Chicago with either her mom or dad to take private violin lessons with a husband-and-wife teaching team.

“The private school I go to in Cincinnati is really good about letting me do a lot of my learning online,” Tso said. “I only have to go to classes one or two days a week.”

Tso remembers her performance in Santa Fe in 2009 and feels that she has learned much about music making since then.

“I’ve worked with a lot more orchestras during the past two years,” she said. “That’s given me a better understanding of how to collaborate with them. I think I’m more mature now and I understand music better. I love working with Joe Illick. I’m really excited to be coming to Santa Fe.”

Not only is Illick conducting the orchestra when Tso performs, but he’s also assuming the role of conductor from the keyboard when he is the featured soloist in Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

The piano concerto has an important trumpet part, which is played by the orchestra’s principal trumpeter, Brynn Rector.