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WCCB Concerto Competition award recipients

Zihao Wang

Nathan Leung:
2023 winner

Performed Glazunov's Concerto for Saxophone on May 4, 2023

Nathan’s first exposure to music was through taking piano lessons with Mrs. Irina Babina and discovering the alto saxophone in the 5th grade. The next year, he began taking private lessons with Mr. John Becker. Since then, music and the saxophone have developed into an important aspect of his life.

Now a junior at Huron High School, Nathan leads the saxophone section in the Huron Symphony Band and plays lead alto in the Huron Jazz Band, both under the direction of Mr. Robert Ash. Nathan performed with these ensembles at Carnegie Hall on a spring tour of New York City and is looking forward to touring with these ensembles again in Spain, a trip scheduled for the summer of 2024.

Nathan has previously played as principal alto in the MSBOA All State Band and achieved honors at the district and state solo and ensemble festivals. He attended the MPULSE Saxophone Institute, where he learned from Dr. Timothy McAllister (University of Michigan) and Dr. Matthew Koester (University of Wisconsin - Madison) through lessons and masterclasses. Nathan has begun studying with Dr. Sean Hurlburt who has brought him to the next level as an instrumental soloist.

In his free time, Nathan enjoys spending time with friends and family, learning jazz improvisation as an amateur, listening to music, running cross country, and participating in various science competitions. This is his first concerto competition, and he is extremely grateful to the WCCB for giving him the opportunity to share his music with the audience. In addition, Nathan would like to thank his private teacher Dr. Hurlburt for his passionate, humorous teaching, his accompanist Dr. Ames, his director Mr. Ash, and his past musical teachers Mrs. Babina and Mr. Becker for their support.

Eric Zhang

William Kletzka:
2023 runner up

Perform Concertino da Camera by Jacques Ibert on June 22, 2023

Will is a passionate saxophonist who is a junior at Dexter High School. He has been playing saxophone since 5th grade, and ever since then music has been one of his major focuses in life. Between saxophone camps and private studying with his lesson teacher Andy Hall, his technical and musical skill continues to evolve.

Will is currently first chair alto saxophone in Dexter High School’s symphonic band, a member of the jazz band, and marching band section and squad leader. Much of the love for music that he has experienced is due to the wholehearted support and guidance by his teachers and mentors: Dr. Kenneth Moore, Mr. Damman, Dr. Timothy McCallister, Liz Ames, Andy Hall, and many more. He has participated in summer programs from Interlochen and MPulse to Indiana University saxophone camp and Blue Lake. In 2022, he won the Kalamazoo Concert Band concerto competition, and he has also participated in the MSBOA All State Band.

Aside from saxophone, Will is also a captain on the Dexter Wrestling team and a member of the cross country and track and field teams, lettering in both wrestling and cross country. He also loves spending time with his family, friends, and animals.

Zihao Wang

Zihao Wang:
2021 winner

Performance of Tableaux de Provence by Paule Maurice

Zihao Wang is a senior at Huron High School in Ann Arbor. He initially started playing the saxophone casually from 6th grade throughout middle school, where he gained experience on all different types of saxophones from the soprano to the baritone. In tenth grade, after attending and being inspired by a concert performance of Rhapsody for the Alto Saxophone, he fell in love with the instrument. That same year, he started studying under saxophonist Dr. Sean Hurlburt.

Through Dr. Hurlburt's passionate and precise instruction, Zihao’s technique and musical skill soared. By eleventh grade, he started to play with the Michigan Youth Symphonic Band on alto saxophone. Later that year, he participated in the MPulse program, where he obtained instruction and masterclasses from the famous classical saxophonist Dr. Timothy McAllister at the University of Michigan. Currently, he is first chair Baritone Saxophone in both the Symphony Band and Jazz Band at Huron High School. With his love for music and the saxophone, Zihao is currently auditioning to study saxophone performance at various colleges, universities, and conservatories around the country.

In his free time, Zihao also explores other instruments such as guitar and piano. He has received honorable mention in the American Protégé piano competition. Additionally, he likes to jam with his group of friends, performing many times at senior homes, hospitals, festivals, and private events. Besides music, Zihao loves video games, books, and spending time with friends and family.

Eric Zhang

Eric Zhang:
2021 runner up

Performance of Concerto for Alto Saxophone by Paul Creston

Sixteen-year-old Eric Zhang began playing the alto saxophone in 5th grade at Logan Elementary in Ann Arbor. Soon, he began studying privately with Andy Hall. Since that time, saxophone has become an important part of Eric's life.

Currently, Eric is a junior at Skyline High School and a member of its Symphony Band directed by Mr. Jason Smith. Eric has studied privately with Dr. Sean Hurlburt for the past 3 years and is immensely grateful to Dr. Hurlburt, who has been a flexible, supportive, and humorous teacher. In addition, Eric has participated in the Michigan Youth Symphony Band and the MSBOA All-State Band.

In addition to music interests, Eric enjoys playing soccer, spending time with his family, and making videos. He is extremely grateful for the opportunity to perform with the Washtenaw Community Concert Band and would like to thank his band director Mr. Smith, his private teacher Dr. Hurlburt, and his accompanist Liz Ames.

Abi Middaugh

Abi Middaugh:
2020 winner

Performed Georges Hue's Fantaisie for Flute and Winds with the WCCB on February 27, 2020.

Abi Middaugh is in the 10th grade at the Early College Alliance in Ypsilanti. Abi first noticed the flute at age three when her parents took her to an orchestra concert and started playing that same year. She has continually studied with Kelly McDermott, whom she cannot thank enough for her inspiring words and unrelenting wisdom. Abi owes her improvement on the flute and with overcoming performance anxiety to Kelly. After graduation, Abi plans on attending a college in the Midwest as a flute performance major with an undecided minor or double major.

Abi held the position of first chair throughout most of middle school and is thoroughly enjoying her first year participating in the Michigan Youth Symphonic Orchestra under Maestro Adrian Slywotzky. Last fall, she served as principal flutist on Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome under Maestro Kenneth Keisler, which helped her grow as an orchestral flutist.

Abi is involved in her instructor’s flute group known as the Pitchbenders. This group of high school students travel and perform around Southeast Michigan including visits to senior homes, festivals, and private events. They are very passionate about teen mental health, and when they recorded their 2017 CD entitled Wind Songs, 100 percent of the proceeds were donated to the University of Michigan Depression Center, a sum of several thousand dollars.

Through hard work, Abi has grown to love and respect music for its infinite feelings and inflections. She believes music portrays what words and images cannot and that it is also undervalued in today’s society. If more people were to listen to and appreciate music, she believes we would be more open to listening to the words of others, creating a more peaceful society.

Besides expressing herself through music, Abi loves photography, shopping, movies, and spending time with her parents and younger sister, Josi. Abi is excited to have this opportunity to challenge herself and perform with the WCCB, and she hopes this will jump-start her musical career.

Brian Fion

Brian Fion:
2020 runner up

Performance of the Rondo from the Bassoon Concerto, Op.75, by Carl Maria von Weber.

Brian lives in Ann Arbor and is currently a junior at Pioneer High School. He initially started playing the clarinet in 5th grade under the direction of Craig Berry. He began playing bassoon at the end of 6th grade under the direction of Fred Smith and subsequently Lauren Stout. He began studying privately with Nora Schankin, to whom he is extremely grateful for her support tutoring, and encouragement. Brian is first chair bassoon in the Pioneer Symphony Band under the direction of David Leach, a position he has held since entering 9th grade. He has performed with the Pioneer Symphony Band in Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, and this year will travel to and perform in Germany. Brian is first chair bassoon in the Pioneer Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jonathan Glawe and is co-principal bassoonist of the Michigan Youth Symphony Orchestra.

This is Brian’s first concerto competition, and he is extremely grateful for the opportunity to perform at the summer concert with the Washtenaw Community Concert Band.

When Brian is not playing the bassoon, he is continuing to study the clarinet with Janet Sommerfeld, to whom he is immensely grateful for her continued support and encouragement. In 2017, Brian participated on the clarinet with the Honors Performance Series ensemble and performed at Carnegie Hall.

Brian also enjoys playing the alto and baritone saxophone, the acoustic guitar, piano, and listening to and playing jazz. Brian is grateful to all the music teachers he has had and the incredible experiences that music has given him. After graduation from high school, he plans to pursue a major in music performance.

Carsten Wright

Carsten Wright:
2019 winner

Performed Edward Gregson's Tuba Concerto on February 28, 2019.

Carsten Wright is a seventeen-year-old senior at Pioneer High School who was born and has lived in Ann Arbor his entire life. He is honored to have this opportunity to perform with the Washtenaw Community Concert Band.

Carsten's study of music began with playing piano at age five, and since then he has studied under a series of wonderful instructors, culminating with his current teacher Sarah Malick. Carsten was first inspired to play tuba by his father Merrill and his older sister Aubrey, both of whom played. In middle school he was part of the Slauson band under Gene Bartley and began taking tuba lessons with Joe DeMarsh. He joined the Pioneer Symphony Band as a freshman, and throughout his four years in the Pioneer band program, director David Leach's enthusiasm and vision have inspired Carsten and given him many amazing experiences and opportunities. He has traveled with the band on two unforgettable trips: to New York in 2016 to play at Carnegie Hall, and to Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia in 2018.

In addition to his musical interests, Carsten enjoys spending time with his family, playing soccer, rock climbing, singing, camping, hiking, computer programming, reading, and chess. He has been part of Boy Scouts of America for nine years, earning the rank of Life Scout, and is currently working on his Eagle Scout service project.

After graduating in June, Carsten plans to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He plans to enroll at Brigham Young University studying a combination of business, engineering, and computer science. He hopes to own a business someday while remaining involved in music throughout his life.

Carsten would like to thank the following: Sarah Malick whose understanding and flexibility have allowed him to continue improving his piano playing during a very busy season of life; Gene Bartley whose patient support allowed him to become the player he is today; Joe DeMarsh for his many years of guidance and encouragement which have kept him focused and dedicated; David Leach who has given him a vision to work toward; and God for his blessed life and many opportunities.

Zack Gabanyicz

Zack Gabanyicz:
2019 runner up

Performed Ropartz Andante et Allegro on June 27, 2019.

Zack Gabanyicz, a senior at Saline High School, began playing the trumpet in the fifth grade under the direction of John Mason. He studied trumpet with Tammy Schoenfeldt from the eighth grade until he began to work with Becky Bloomer his sophomore year of high school. At Saline High School, Zack is trumpet section leader in the Wind Ensemble and Saline Marching Band under the direction of Nate Lampman. Zack has also been a member of the Michigan Youth Ensembles at the University of Michigan and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Civic Youth Ensembles since sophomore year. This past year Zack was principal trumpet in the Michigan Youth Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra. Zack has participated in the MSBOA All-State Band and MSBOA/MYAF Honors Band for the past two years and served as principal trumpet in the All-State Band this past winter. Zack has spent four summers at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp participating in their Masterworks Orchestra Program and has toured with the Blue Lake International Youth Symphony Orchestra as principal trumpet.

When he is not playing trumpet, Zack enjoys running, hiking, rock climbing. Zack will be attending the University of Michigan in the fall to study trumpet performance.

Leah Keller:
2019 honorable mention

Through a generous donation by Andy Perez, an additional participant was recognized for her performance in this year's concerto competition. Leah Keller, a flute player from Saline High School, chose Fantasy by Gabriel Fauré for her concerto audition. Leah received an honorable mention prize of $250.


Tohei Ichikawa:
2018 winner

Performed Second Concerto for Clarinet by Carl Maria von Weber on March 15, 2018.

Sixteen-year-old Tohei began his journey with the clarinet in 5th grade at Lakewood Elementary in Ann Arbor. He soon began studying privately with Jay deVries, who has been and continues to be an insightful and humorous music educator. Along his journey, Tohei has participated in various performances with the clarinet, learning from distinguished conductors, clinicians, and other educators the nuances of musicality.

Currently, he is a junior at Skyline High School and a member of its Symphony Band and Symphony Full Orchestra under directors Jason Smith and Andrea Cowper, respectively. In addition, he is a participant in the Michigan Youth Ensembles, playing for his 3rd year in the program with the Michigan Youth Symphony Orchestra under Professor Anthony Elliott of the University of Michigan. He has also been a participant of the MSBOA All-State Bands several times.

Before studying the clarinet, Tohei had been learning the piano. He learned rhythm, expression, and other foundations of music from his many piano teachers from the age of five. To this day, he still plays transcriptions of video game, anime, and Japanese pop music on the piano. Recently, he has begun accompanying for MSBOA Solo & Ensemble events.

In addition to his musical interests, Tohei also hopes to one day be able to zealously pursue Jesus Christ. Accordingly, he is a member of the Church in Ann Arbor and its youth group, Ann Arbor Youth, for which he serves on the music team. With the rest of his spare time, he has been volunteering at the Food Gatherers Community Kitchen for the past 4 years and has been tutoring kids at Kumon.

Now, as the winner of the WCCB's 4th Annual Concerto Competition, Tohei Ichikawa is honored to be invited to play a concerto — something that, just a year before, was but a dream to him. He thanks his family, his piano accompanist Nina Yamakado, his band director Jason Smith, his private teacher Jay deVries, and his God for providing for this grand opportunity.

Kevin Tan

Kevin Tan:
2017 winner

Performed Fantasia for Alto Saxophone by Claude T. Smith on May 11, 2017.

Kevin Tan has played the alto saxophone since the 5th grade after begging his elementary school band director, Mrs. Caroline Fitzgerald, to be switched from the clarinet. Since then, music and the saxophone have grown to be an important part of his life. Kevin has studied under his private teacher, Evan Blanchard, since his first ventures on the saxophone, and would like to thank him for many years making music together.

Now a junior at Huron High School, Kevin leads the saxophone section under the guidance of his band director, Stephen Roberts. Last year, Kevin played with the Huron High Symphony and Jazz Bands in a tour across Spain from Madrid to Toledo to Seville and more. He also performed at the 2016 Michigan Music Conference with the All-State Band, Huron Symphony Band, and Huron Jazz Band. Kevin also plays in the Michigan Youth Band as the principal alto saxophone, a position that he has held since the 8th grade.

Last year, Kevin achieved high honors at the District and State Solo and Ensemble Festival, moved on as a Nominated Outstanding Soloist, and eventually performed as a Gala Soloist at the 2016 Annual Michigan Youth Arts Festival.

Outside of his involvement with music, Kevin strives to give back to his community and has founded an educational nonprofit organization of high school students called INNO that is dedicated to helping middle school students learn and think in new ways. Through this experience, he has treasured being able to make connections with like-minded high school students as well within a professional network. This summer, INNO will be holding its first annual summer program for middle school students, which Kevin looks forward to greatly. Running INNO has allowed him to learn many valuable lessons about being a student, a productive member of society, and an aspiring entrepreneur!

Kevin is honored to be featured with the Washtenaw Community College Concert Band and is thankful for this opportunity to share his passion for music, and for the alto saxophone, with the audience.

Annie Li

Annie Li:
2017 Runner UP

Performed Giacchino Rossini's Introduction, Theme and Variations on clarinet on June 29, 2017.

Annie Li lives in Ann Arbor and is a currently a junior at Pioneer High School. She started playing the clarinet in 5th grade under the direction of Gene Bartley. Soon she began taking private lessons with Jay deVries, to whom she owes her musical success through his countless hours of tutoring and support. She became a member of the Pioneer Symphony Band in 9th grade under the baton of David Leach and is now first chair in her section. She has also been a participant of the MSBOA All-State Bands from 2013–2017. This is her first concerto competition.

Annie is immensely grateful for all the music teachers she has had and the incredible experiences that music has given her throughout the years. Among these is her experience playing the piano, which she began studying at the age of 7 with Zhihua Tang. In high school, she continued under the guidance of Yili Lin and earned her Level 10 SATD piano certification in 10th grade. She also has the fortune of being a part of Pioneer's award-winning band program, which she traveled with to New York in April 2016 to play at Carnegie Hall. She has many inspiring, fun memories of her time in the band and looks forward to making more during the rest of her high school career.

Aside from music, Annie enjoys science, writing, and volunteering. She is an active member in her school's Red Cross club and Science Olympiad team. She hopes to study computer science after high school and to continue her musical pursuits, whether through a college course or by participating in local ensembles.

Jonathan Lynn

Jonathan Lynn:
2016 winner

Performed Glazunov's Concerto for Saxophone on Thursday, March 3, 2016.

Jonathan is a resident of Ann Arbor and a senior at Pioneer High School, dual-enrolled at Community High School. He began playing the alto saxophone in school in 5th grade. He also began studying with saxophone teacher John Becker later the same year. His prowess with the saxophone quickly earned him recognition as a musician. In addition to a series of "First Division" ratings at District and State Solo & Ensemble, Jonathan made 1st chair alto saxophone in the Pioneer High School Symphony Band in 10th grade, a position that he has held for the past 3 years. Jonathan is also 1st chair alto saxophone in the Pioneer High School Jazz Band, a position that he has held for the past 3 years. He was recently awarded a concerto performance in Pioneer's 2016 Annual Concerto Competition, the first saxophone concerto awarded to a Pioneer senior in 19 years. Jonathan has performed with the Pioneer Symphony Band and Jazz Band in Prague and Hodonin, Czech Republic, and will be performing again with these ensembles at Carnegie Hall, NYC, in April 2016. He is also proud to have performed as a member of the All City Centennial Band, celebrating 100 years of bands in Ann Arbor Public Schools.

In addition to playing the saxophone, Jonathan is an accomplished pianist. He started studying with piano teacher Dan Latterner when he was 8 years old and completed his Level 10 SATD piano certification when he was in 9th grade. Jonathan discovered jazz when he was in 7th grade, and jazz quickly became his passion. He dual-enrolled at Community High School in 9th grade so that he could take advantage of the classes taught by CHS Jazz Director Jack Wagner. Jonathan's passion for music has helped him win several awards. He has made it to the All-State Jazz Ensemble for the past 2 years and the Michigan Youth Arts Festival (MYAF) Honors Jazz Ensemble in 2015. Jonathan was also the 1st chair for both Interlochen Arts Camp Jazz Ensembles in 2015, where he studied with Bill Sears. He was fortunate to be able to attend Interlochen Arts Camp in part due to a merit scholarship from the Ann Arbor Public Schools. He has also been a finalist in the Rosalie Edwards Youth Arts Competition and 1st chair in the "Future BeBop Spartans" top jazz ensemble at Michigan State University's 2015 Jazz Camp.

Jonathan recognizes that he would not be where he is today without all the great music teachers that he has had the opportunity to work with over the years, both in school and privately. He is immensely grateful to his AAPS teachers David Leach, Jack Wagner, Nancy Waring, Gene Bartley, Debbie Smith, and Kristi Bishop, as well as his private teachers John Becker, Dan Latterner, Jack Wagner (summers), and Dr. Andrew Bishop. Mrs. Bishop was Jonathan's music teacher in elementary school and she was the person who got him excited about music in the first place. He is fortunate to now be studying with her husband, UM School of Music saxophone professor Dr. Andrew Bishop.

Outside school, Jonathan enjoys listening to music performances by the masters, and he also enjoys teaching the saxophone and piano. He organizes and heads jazz ensembles that perform at various fundraising events, the VA hospital, and area nursing homes. He was awarded the Harold Eastman Outstanding Achievement Award in 2015 by the Breakfast Optimist Club of Ann Arbor for his leadership and community service. Jonathan plans to pursue a dual major in music performance and computer science in college this fall.

Griffin Roy

Griffin Roy:
2015 winner

Performed Première Rhapsodie for Clarinet by Claude Debussy on Thursday, April 23, 2015

A resident of Ann Arbor and a senior at Community High School and dual-enrolled at Pioneer High School, Griffin Roy began playing clarinet in the fifth grade at Ann Arbor Open school under the direction of Carolyn Bybee. As a seventh grader, he earned a seat in the Michigan All-State Band and continued yearly trips to Grand Rapids to work with and perform with the ensembles for each year that he auditioned. Griffin has studied with Jay deVries for the past five years and is immensely grateful to Jay for the incredible challenge and experience he has given him. With Jay's guidance, Griffin made it into the Pioneer Symphony Band, under the direction of David Leach, as a freshman. He has been first chair clarinet for the past two years.

Through band, orchestra, ensemble, and solo work, Griffin has been exposed to many exciting experiences -- travelling to New York to play at Carnegie Hall, travelling to San Francisco for a clinic with Alasdair Neale, performing at the Michigan Music Conference in Grand Rapids, playing under the direction of Michael Adelson, John Pasquale, Michael Haithcock, and Kevin Sedatole, and most recently touring and performing in Budapest, Prague, and Vienna. It was a true honor to take part in the 100th Anniversary Concert of Music in Ann Arbor at Hill Auditorium last spring. On March 26, Griffin will perform Gioachino Rossini's Introduction, Theme, and Variations in the 60th Annual Pioneer Concerto Concert. The proficiency of the Grammy winning Pioneer Music program and the great appreciation the Ann Arbor community has for arts education has fostered years of unique and unforgettable experiences.

Aside from playing the clarinet, Griffin is also a co-captain of the Pioneer Crew Team which satisfies another level of discipline and teamwork. He is also an active member of his church youth group at First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor, and will travel with them in June for a work trip in Guatemala. Griffin is also part of the National Honor Society. While these activities keep him busy, Griffin enjoys reading, computer programming, and time with friends when he has some unscheduled hours. He intends to study engineering and certainly plans to insert himself into the music program of his selected University this fall.

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