Wa-Hi grad is soloist in first symphony concert

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A local piano prodigy will return home to perform in the opening concert of the Walla Walla Symphony's 103rd season. The soloist, Alexander Bernstein, is a graduate of Walla Walla High School studying with instructor Stephen Drury of the New England Conservatory.

The symphony's opening concert, "Autumn Prelude," will take place 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Cordiner Hall at Whitman College. The program will feature Rossini's "The Overture of William Tell" and Schumann's "Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Minor;" Alexander will perform Chopin's "Piano Concert No. 2 in F Minor." The pieces were selected by the symphony's director and conductor, Yaacov Bergman, more commonly known as "Yaki."

"Yaki likes to feature younger soloists who are on the cusp of becoming big-time players," Michael Wenberg, CEO of the symphony, said. "Alexander is a wonderful pianist, and Yaki thinks that the Chopin in particular plays to his artistic strengths. We're also lucky because Alexander has a local connection."

Bernstein began piano lessons at the age of seven in his hometown of San Francisco. Later, he and his family moved to Walla Walla, where he studied in the studio of the director of the piano preparatory division at Walla Walla College, Debra Richter. His performance career began at a very young age. In 1999, 10-year-old Bernstein made his debut with the Oregon East Symphony, and he continued to perform with various orchestras throughout the Northwest.

"I figured out early on that music was either going to be a big part of my life, or it was going to be my life," Bernstein said.

Before he graduated from Walla Walla High in 2006, Bernstein applied to many conservatories, but, at the last minute, he submitted an application to Harvard and was accepted.

"Obviously, it has worked out well," the senior music major said.

While Bernstein takes classes at Harvard, he receives conservatory training through his instructor, Stephen Drury of the New England Conservatory.

Bernstein's additional accolades include top prizes in various music competitions, including the Northwest Chopin Competition, MusicFest Northwest Young Artist Competition, Washington State Music Educators Competition and the Oregon East Young Artists Competition. He has also attended master classes with many renowned artists.

Bernstein enjoys playing classical and contemporary music, but he has not stopped there. He has honed his jazz repertoire, playing in the All-Northwest and All-Washington State Jazz Bands. In high school, a jazz combo he coordinated won first prize at the international Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.

While Bernstein performed with the symphony twice in middle school and high school, he has not performed in Walla Walla in nearly three years. He looks forward to the opportunity to return home and share the stage once again.

"It's going to be fun to revisit performing at home. It has been a long time," he said. "I'm very excited to come back and work with the symphony. And working with Yaki will be great."

For more information on the "Autumn Prelude" concert and upcoming concerts of the symphony's 103rd season, visit www.wwsymphony.org.

Season tickets and tickets for individual concerts can be purchased on the Web site. Tickets for "Autumn Prelude" begin at $10 for adults and $6 for children (18 and under). Symphony season tickets start at $55 for adults and $32 for children.

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