The final concert of the Tuesday Summer Concert Series is a return of local college students Ross Larson and Olivia Skaja. The concert at 12 p.m. at Grand Rapids Alliance Church, 600 SE 17th Street, will features solos by Larson on piano and Skaja on violin as well as a duet. This is Larson’s third concert for the series; Skaja has made numerous appearances both as a soloist and with members of her family. The duo first appeared together in the Bringing College Home concert, which left the audience wowed by the talent and confidence of the young performers.
Larson, a native of Grand Rapids, has studied piano for 13 years, first with Anne Dimich of Grand Rapids and subsequently with Dr. Paul Shaw at the University of Minnesota. For several years, he accompanied the Senior Choir and was a member of the Carillon Classics bell choir at Zion Lutheran Church of Grand Rapids. Throughout this time, he found himself performing in numerous solo and chamber engagements throughout the community and state. Currently, he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Business with a concentration in Finance at the Carlson School of Management. Keeping with his passions and roots, he is complementing this education with a second major in Piano Performance, for which he performs solo and chamber music.
This combination of academic disciplines has led to exciting opportunities, including a successful finance and accounting internship at Steinway & Sons in New York. This summer, he was awarded a financial analyst internship at United Health Group and he is preparing repertoire for his upcoming senior recital. Larson was the recipient of the 2018 scholarship awarded by the Summer Concert Series.
Skaja has been playing the violin since the age of nine, and has studied with Mary LaPlant, Alex DePue, Nathan Cole and (currently) Francesca Anderegg. She has received first place awards in the Reif Top Ten Talent Search (2014), Heartland Symphony Concerto Competition (2015), and DSSO Young Artist Competition (2017). She has attended summer music festivals, notably Meadowmount School of Music and Interlochen Arts Camp, where she was the recipient of a full merit scholarship in 2017.
Additionally, Skaja is an avid fiddler, and has been fiddling since the age of 10. She is a three time Minnesota State Oldtime Fiddle Champion, and has been ranked among the top five fiddlers in Minnesota since the age of 15. Skaja currently attends St. Olaf College, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance. She is a member of the St. Olaf Orchestra, and additionally served as coconcertmaster of the St. Olaf Philharmonia for two years.
This is the final concert of the 18th season of theTuesday concerts and will also mark the announcement of the scholarship award for 2019. Scholarships have been awarded for the last four years through the generous donations of the concert attendees. Performers donate their time and talent so that the free-will donations at the concerts pay the limited series expenses, provide for donations to the music programs of the host churches, and support a scholarship for a local music student who has completed at least two years of college.
Attendees frequently comment on how lucky we are to have so many talented musicians in the area and to be able to see some grow and mature in their art. Audience surveys in the last two concerts will assist the series committee in planning the concerts for summer 2020. The series has grown in recognition so that musicians are asking to be included for the summer. Each year, the series is a mix of familiar names, some newcomers and occasionally familiar faces in new groupings. The goal is to provide a diverse selection of music so that there is something for everyone. Each host church offers a lunch for sale following the concert so that the Tuesday Summer Concert Series offers food and fellowship to go with the music, a combination that is appreciated by the regular attendees.