It may be a rewarding grind, but let’s face it, preparing for a life as a professional classical musician can be a GRIND. Violinist Ezekiel Sokoloff maintains a cheerfully unrelenting pace of study, practice and performance by keeping the potential payoffs as close as his music stand.
“What keeps me going is knowing what opportunities and experiences I can get when I work hard,” the 17-year-old Utahn told us. “I have met so many wonderful people in my youth orchestra, as well as those I’ve met at camps like PIMF and competitions around the United States. I’ve gotten to travel a lot as well. I’ve made so many memories through playing the violin.”
We asked him to highlight a few:
- First Prize at the Ronald Sachs International Music Competition this past October. The 7th annual event in North Carolina has quickly become one of the most prestigious competitions for young musicians in the country. “It was unexpected as it was my first competition of that caliber, but I was happy to see my preparation paid off.”
- Last year Zeke performed Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 with both the Utah Symphony and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. ”Both of those opportunities reminded me of my goals and why I play music.”
- Completing all of his college pre-screening recordings and applications! “There was a lot of music to record, and I’m glad that all of the music is at a consistently high level.”
Also, as we were heading to press with this blog, we learned Zeke has been named a 2023 Young Arts Finalist in the Classical Music category.
Zeke is homeschooled, which allows him to coordinate his music studies at the Gifted Music School in Salt Lake City, Utah, around his other coursework, as well as travel for lessons, performances, and competitions. It also allows for a rigorous practice regimen and allows Zeke to focus on his career as a performing musician – “In the near future that means college auditions, and in the next years that means competing and possibly performing internationally!”
“I have a base practice of 5 hours which has been consistent since I was 12, but I average between 5-7 hours of personal practice each day,” Zeke explained. “Once per week, I work privately with an accompanist and he also attends most of my lessons which is a nice addition. On weekends I go to a pre-college conservatory program where I am in an orchestra, and chamber group and I also have classes in music theory and music history. Through my pre-college program, I have had a lot of opportunities to play for prominent professors and musicians in masterclasses and have had some great performance opportunities.”
That’s just for violin, which he’s played since age 5. He’s also an accomplished pianist.
We were delighted to meet Zeke at PIMF this past summer, and delighted to know the feeling is mutual.
“My family is originally from Philadelphia, so we were excited to have the opportunity to come back for PIMF,” he recalled. “I did the day program which was nice for me because I could be with musical peers for part of the day but then also spend time with extended family in the evenings, but the overnight option looked like a lot of fun too!
“The program is at a really nice facility, the accompanists were great, and it was nice that everyone got a chance to perform. I met a lot of nice kids there as well, and of course, the instructors were very skilled and provided a lot of valuable information. I think a few of my top moments at PIMF last summer were being in the performance classes, getting to know my chamber group, just being backstage at the master classes and concert with all the other kids. Another top moment was getting to play for (Philadelphia Orchestra Concertmaster) David Kim in a master class.”
It might seem that total immersion of this kind would make the competition process a breeze, but Zeke views the process as a serious growth opportunity that can underpin his non-musical life as well.
“Competing allows a student to have a goal to prepare for, especially if a student likes to be challenged in a positive way when they practice,” he told us. “It also allows you to get into the correct mindset for performing and for life in general: you should be confident in yourself and your preparation, but not be cocky if you’re successful, (or) angry at yourself if you’re not.”
PIMF has another competition going on RIGHT NOW so musicians ages 6 through 19 can challenge themselves by uploading one movement of a concerto by December 31, 2022 to the audition portal for PIMF’s Virtual Concerto Competition. Over $20,000 in summer camp scholarships will be awarded, including one Full Scholarship to PIMF 2023. All division winners will perform in a PIMF Winner’s Circle Concert in Philadelphia, March 2023 along with Juliette Kang, First Associate Concertmaster, The Philadelphia Orchestra; and Hai-Ye Ni, Principal Cello, The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Even if Zeke’s story is “exceptional” – YOU can compete, learn, and win prizes with PIMF now. Over 80 partial scholarships are awarded in total, not to mention all of the growth that a competition provides a student.
Details at https://philadelphiamusicfestival.org/virtual-concerto-competition/