Students win YoungArts titles

William Liu and Alex Lee

Five students won both Finalist and Merit titles in the National YoungArts Foundation’s annual competition for the 2022-2023 school year. YoungArts Competition submissions are open to 15-18 year olds in the visual, literary and performing arts. Over 7000 submissions were reviewed by a panel of professional artists through a blind judging process, and 702 works were awarded in three tiers: Finalist, Honorable Mention and Merit. The foundation provides winners with artistic support, networking opportunities and cash prizes up to $10,000.

The 142 Finalists were also invited to participate in the National YoungArts Week of Jan. 8-15, 2023. Hosted at the National Young Arts Complex and the Miami City Ballet in Miami, Finalists take multimedia master classes, receive feedback from industry professionals, showcase their work to one another and become eligible for the United States Presidential Scholars Program, in which top works are selected by the White House Commission.

In the Finalist category, Presentation Managing Editor Fallon Dern ’23 and Alejandro Lombard ’23 were awarded for their respective documentary films, “American Boy” and “Seeking Asylum.” In the Merit category, Matthew Chang ’23 was awarded for Classical Music, Grace Belgrader ’23 was awarded for Film and Claire Wu ’24 was awarded for Photography.

Dern said she grew up admiring previous YoungArts finalists from afar, including Viola Davis, Timothee Chalamet, Hunter Schafer and Kerry Washington. She said when her family friend, Charlie Kogen ’18, was named a YoungArts Finalist and Presidential Scholar in Songwriting, she was in awe of how the program catalyzed his success as a musician.

“I came from Curtis [School], and there was a very musically gifted kid, Charlie Kogen, who became a U.S. Presidential Scholar,” Dern said. “I always admired him and realized that [YoungArts] was a very serious program. When I think about all of the winners, I never imagined that I myself would be able to win. To create something, have it be recognized and share the experience with [Lombard], who contributed to my film and created a stellar work of his own, is really mind blowing to me. I think it is a very high honor, and I still can’t believe it.”

Lombard said, while he did not initially intend on applying to YoungArts, he is pleasantly surprised at the outcome of being named a Finalist.

“I spent this summer working for reasons far more important than winning an award,” Lombard said. “It only occurred to me to submit to YoungArts half an hour before the application was due. Fast forward a month, and I get a phone call on my way to Video Art [class] from YoungArts telling me the news.”

Lombard’s film was inspired by his work in helping Mexican migrant families and follows the experience of a mother’s journey to the California border.

“In 2019, I began to volunteer at migrant shelters at the US and Mexico border to help desperate families who have fled violence or political, social and economic oppression in their home countries,” Lombard said. “Through it all, I’ve been listening to these stories. Their strength and perseverance inspired me to make a documentary to help reframe and humanize the narrative of immigration and asylum in this country.”

Wu said creating her YoungArts portfolio helped her reflect on her identity as an artist, which allowed her to bettr understand and tell her story.

“It was a great experience to select the [photos] I liked and connect them to form my story,” Wu said. “I used my family pictures to portray the parent-child dilemmas in immigrant families. As a first-generation Chinese American immigrant, I receive mixed messages daily and am not sure which direction to go.”

Chang said the process of recording himself playing music was difficult at times, especially because he was looking for perfection.

“It’s rather stressful and a bit frustrating to record the same pieces over and over again because you want to have the best recording possible,” Chang said. “But it’s impossible to have a perfect performance. I guess the biggest challenge of doing any of these online submission competitions is recording.”

Chang said he was still able to find pleasure in the creation of his submission.

“My favorite part of the process was learning the pieces,” Chang said. “They’re all such great works, and I found it immensely enjoyable and gratifying to explore pieces from four different musical periods that all have such varying styles.”

Applications for the 2024 YoungArts competition will open in June 2023.