CALIFORNIA, Md. – Since 1995, COSMIC Symphony has been Southern Maryland’s only community orchestra. Laura Theofilis, who co-founded COSMIC, wanted to bring classical music to her beloved community and help nurture future talent.
According to COSMIC’s official website, “COSMIC Symphony’s primary objective is to provide the Southern Maryland community with high-quality classical music performed by its own local musicians. COSMIC Symphony provides an enjoyable orchestral experience for a large cross-section of our community through the diversity of our musical selections. The music selections include a family program, music for young adults, holiday favorites, and symphonic music for the serious concertgoers.”
As one of the many ways COSMIC helps grow the classical music genre in Southern Maryland, each year COSMIC hosts their Young Artists Competition, which aims to “encourage the musical development of young instrumentalists and vocalists in Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary’s Counties of Southern Maryland.”
The competition has two winners, one from the Junior Division, and one from the Senior Division. In addition to a $250 cash prize, the winners have the opportunity to perform with COSMIC Symphony at their March 2nd and 3rd, 2024 concerts.
This year’s Senior Division winner is Alexander Wu, a cello student born and raised in Philadelphia. Alex started playing the cello when he was just seven years old and has been playing for 17 years in total. Alex will perform the first movement of the Dimitri Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107.
A recipient of the Penn State University Brewster Music Grant, cellist Alex Wu is a second-year master’s student at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University under the tutelage of Alan Stepansky. As a graduate of the Schreyer Honors College at Pennsylvania State University in political science and music performance, he has also studied under Kim Cook and Jeffrey Solow. Alex debuted with the Warminster Symphony in 2010 and has since then performed as a soloist with the Lansdowne, Old York, and Southeastern Pennsylvania symphony orchestras. Most recently, Alex was the winner of the Penn State Philharmonic concerto competition, performing the Shostakovich concerto under the baton of Gerardo Edelstein.
In 2018, Alex was selected as a National YoungArts Foundation merit scholar in classical music and has also been invited as a professional performance artist at the Boston Music Institute’s 12-hour masterclass program, working closely with members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic. In the fall of 2021, he advanced as one of two American semi-finalists to compete in the IXth “Annarosa Taddei” International Music Competition in Rome. As a chamber musician, Alex is a member of Ensemble VI and has performed across the United States, South America, Europe, and Asia with various ensembles. In recent years, he has been invited to perform as a soloist and chamber musician at the Caramoor International Music Festival, the Mount Gretna Music Festival, the Harpa International Music Academy, the Manchester Music Festival, and the Music Academy of the West.
“I feel particularly excited to be performing in these concerts! I can’t wait to collaborate with a large ensemble like the COSMIC symphony and I am excited to perform for the Southern Maryland community for the first time,” Alex told The BayNet.
This year’s Junior Division winner is Esther Bonney, a violinist from La Plata and a full-time dual enrollment student at the College of Southern Maryland.
Esther, who has played the violin for six and a half years, has been the Concertmaster of the Charles County Youth Orchestra since 2022 and is a member of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra. She studies under Angelia Cho of NSO and Dr. Teri Lazar of American University.
Esther’s chamber group, the Sapphire Quartet, performed at the 2022 Misbin Chamber Competition finals at the Levine School of Music in Washington DC. In 2021, she won the Charles County Youth Orchestra’s Concerto Competition and soloed at the 2022 CCYO Winter Concert.
Esther has also been accepted into the National Symphony Orchestra Youth Fellowship Program at the Kennedy Center for the 2023-2024 season. She also teaches violin and piano to elementary students and often performs at public concerts. Outside of music, Esther enjoys caring for her five goats and supporting local farmers through her nonprofit, Nurture Natives. She hopes to study music and environmental law.
“This is a dream come true! I am honored and beyond excited to have the opportunity to perform as a soloist with the COSMIC Symphony. In 2022, I made my debut with the Charles County Youth Orchestra, performing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4. Since then, I’ve been working toward another solo opportunity, driven by the amazing experience I had,” Esther told The BayNet. “There is nothing more exhilarating and empowering to me than performing in front of a live audience. I love every aspect of it. My performances are some of the proudest and most cherished moments of my life. I’m sure these concerts with COSMIC will be no exception. I’m counting down the days until March.”
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