West Point teen to perform at Young Artist Concert
Story and photo by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (April 16, 2013) — Mirana Stoker has heard the West Point Band in concert before, and soon she will have the chance to play with them.
Stoker, 18, has earned the distinction of being the first West Point community member to have won the Young Artist Solo Competition in its 20-year history. She will join Amanda Kam, a junior at Millburn High School, N.J., in a concert Sunday with the West Point Band.
Recently, Stoker won the 2013 Orange County Music Educators Association performance scholarship and placed second out of 33 pianists at the Piano Festival at SUNY New Paltz.
Stoker, daughter of Lt. Col. Geoffery and Akemi Stoker, is a senior at O’Neill High School where she performs with the Jazz Band. She can also be found playing with the Sunday worship praise team at the Post Chapel.
The West Point teen has been studying piano since 5 years old. Though she admits getting herself to practice is the most difficult part of playing, Stoker has kept at it for 13 years.
“I just enjoy playing and once you get good at it then it becomes even more fun,” Stoker said. “Of course, at the beginning, you have to play the slow, easy songs … but then when you learn the hard ones people tend to get really impressed with you and then it’s fun to keep going.”
Her favorite composer is Chopin and she likes playing his waltzes, but she doesn’t have a particular favorite piece of music.
“It’s usually whatever I’ve been working on last,” she said. “For my college auditions, I’ve prepared this one piece by Alberto Ginastera called ‘Danza en Argentina.’ It’s kind of weird-sounding but cool-sounding, so it’s fun to play.”
For the West Point Band competition, she had to perform from a playlist of Gershwin, Grieg and Mozart.
“For the one I learned, the beginning and the end were pretty easy,” Stoker said. “But then the middle part has a bunch of 16th notes so it’s super-fast and it took a while to learn.”
Stoker will perform the second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, K. 466, which she had to play at the final audition in front of members of the West Point Band. Not long after impressing the judging panel, she received a phone call from Sgt. 1st Class Mike Reifenberg with the good news.
Mirana Stoker, 18, from O’Neill High School, was the first West Point community member to win the West Point Band’s Young Artist Solo Competition in its 20-year history. She is the daughter of Lt. Col. Geoffery and Akemi Stoker. She will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday at Eisenhower Hall Ballroom with the band during the Young Artist Concert. The concert is free and open to the public. Pictured, Stoker rehearses with the West Point Band at Egner Hall April 16.
“I was super excited,” Stoker said. “Not many people get this opportunity. They are such an elite band. It’s going to be an awesome feeling.”Her father, an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said the news was received with a mix of pride and elation.“And then maybe just feeling a little bit lucky, because you move to different places at different times. The school we had just left before coming here was really big and there weren’t many opportunities to play piano. The nice thing about this community is it’s smaller but has a really good musical influence,” he said.After high school, Stoker intends to major in collaborative piano at Shenandoah University’s music conservatory in Winchester, Va. She is currently under the tutelage of Dr. Ruthanne Schempf of Cornwall.Lt. Col. Jim Keene, the band commander, said previous winners of the competition have done remarkable things in their lives.“Past winners consisted of a national merit scholar who is attending Harvard on scholarship and a state tennis champion who now attends the Juilliard School,” Keene said. “These high achievers would potentially not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to West Point or the Army.”This is the 20th year the West Point Band has conducted the Young Artist Solo Competition and concert.“The United States Military Academy Band is very excited to continue to offer young artists a meaningful experience to perform with our great band,” Keene said. “Each year, the rehearsals and performances have yielded lifelong impressions between the musicians of the band and the soloists. I am always struck, not only by the extraordinary level of musicianship exhibited by these musicians, but also by their accomplishments apart from music.”