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Announcing the Finalist for the 2023 Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition

The Abilene Philharmonic’s Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition was established in 2008 to help support outstanding young musicians in the Abilene area. The competition is open to woodwind, brass, percussion, string, and piano students between the ages of 12-18 that live in Texas School Regions 7, 9, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and have not yet graduated high school.

Nelda and Eddie Hodges were generous donors, active volunteers, and innovative leaders of the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra, Foundation, and Guild for almost sixty years. Eddie Hodges honored his wife with the establishment of the Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition Endowment to inspire and reward young people’s love for music.

Aaron Brokovich is a percussionist and a senior at ATEMS and Cooper HS, performing with the Cooper High School Wind Symphony. He started his musical career with piano in 1st grade until he joined percussion in 6th grade. Aaron performs with many ensembles, including Abilene Youth Orchestra, the Cooper HS Jazz Band, the Cooper HS Drumline, and some percussion ensembles. He has been the principal percussionist in the Abilene Youth Orchestra for three years and has been first chair in the Cooper HS Wind Symphony for three years as well. He is also the drum captain for the Cooper Drumline, performing in marching band performances, drumline showcases, and indoor drumline. Aaron has had many music teachers that have guided him, including Lora Lynn Christensen, Patrick Stevenson, John Landin, and Dr. Juan Mendoza. His freshman year, Aaron made the TMEA All-Region Freshman Band, and for the past three years he has made the All-Region Symphonic Band and advanced to Area Auditions. Last year at the UIL State Solo and Ensemble Contest, Aaron received a division 1 for his solo and the prestigious Outstanding Performer award. To wrap up his senior year, Aaron made the TMEA 5A All-State Symphonic Band. His future plans are to major in both computer engineering and music.

Ethan Dunn began playing violin at the age of 11. He currently studies privately with Thomas Roberts. He is a member of the Abilene ISD Orchestra, of which he has been concertmaster for three consecutive years. He is the current Abilene High School Orchestra President, and has spent three years in student leadership roles within the program. Ethan Dunn is also a five-year member of the Abilene Youth Orchestra, of which he has been the concertmaster of for three consecutive years. Additionally, Ethan Dunn has spent four years performing with the world-renowned fiddle group Revolution Strings, where he has been an ensemble member and soloist, learning styles of music including fiddle, bluegrass, folk, and Texas swing music. During his time in the group, Ethan has performed over 75 gigs for the group, including multiple performances at TMEA and a performance with Mark and Maggie O’Connor. With Revolution Strings, he has participated in the recording of three music videos. He has participated in the TMEA All-Region Orchestra four years in a row, with two consecutive years as second overall chair. Ethan is a recipient of the UIL Outstanding Performer Award and is a two-time Texas Music Scholar. He has performed in masterclasses with names such as William Hagen, Beth Elsner, and Angelo Xiang Yu. He is also a member of the Pioneer Drive Baptist Church Orchestra, where he plays and attends church on Sunday mornings. Furthermore, Ethan has been a member of the Abilene High School Choir for two years, and holds a leadership role as tenor section leader. He is also a member of the auditioned acappella group Pure Gold. At the Abilene High School Choir Christmas Concert of 2021, he performed his and Harrison Smith’s own arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen for violin and piano. His versatility as a musician has not only led him to be a part of many ensembles, but it has also opened doors for him professionally. Ethan has performed in many paid gigs around Abilene and the surrounding areas. He has performed in 4 pit orchestras, and has been paid professionally as both a vocalist and a violinist in a myriad of different professional settings. When not performing, Ethan likes to spend his free time longboarding, drinking coffee, and hanging out with friends.

Glenn Eshelman is an eighth grader from Waco, Texas. He began playing violin at the age of five and studies with Mrs. Amanda Schubert of the Suzuki Academy of Waco. He is a member of the Waco Symphony Youth Orchestra, concertmaster of the River Valley Middle School Chamber Orchestra, first violin in a string quartet at the Suzuki Academy of Waco, and was principal second violin in the 2022 all-region orchestra. In 2021, he was a second prize winner in the Charleston International Music Competition’s “Classical Music Competition,” and in 2022, he gave a solo recital at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Waco. Aside from violin, he loves basketball and plays on the River Valley Middle School team, plays piano, and was runner-up in the regional level of the Scripp’s National Spelling Bee in 2021 and 2022. 

Laisha Lozano began her music studies at the age of 9 in the city of Chihuahua, Mexico.  In the year of 2020 she moved to Denver City where she immediately took up her music study.  She has been a part of the ATSSB All-State Band since she arrived making her a three year All-State student, achieving first chair on year two. The past two years she has also been named an Outstanding performer in the UIL State Solo and Ensemble competition. She has qualified for the State UIL Solo and Ensemble in both Solo and Ensemble events this year as well. Laisha will attend Texas Tech next fall where she will study Music Education and Music Performance.

Oboist, Owen Bailey, resides in Abilene, TX. He currently serves as principal oboist for the Abilene Youth Orchestra and Cooper High School Band. He studies oboe with Susie Rockett. Prior to his move to Abilene, Owen was raised in Katy, TX where he studied oboe with Abby Yeakle-Held and Pablo Moreno. He was a founding member of the Quintessential Winds, a woodwind quintet organized by five young musicians seeking out performance opportunities beyond the scope of their school music programs. Last year, Owen was awarded 2nd place as a finalist in the Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition. Most recently, Owen performed as a Texas All-state oboist at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention. Owen is also a three-time area finalist in the TMEA All-State Band Auditions. He has also finished second chair TMEA Region 23 Orchestra, fifth chair TMEA Region 23 Band, and three times as first chair in the TMEA Region 6 Band and Orchestra. Owen has received first division ratings on all local and U.I.L. Solo and Ensemble performances for seven years. Owen is also active in his community. He has been invited to perform with Chorus Abilene and the Abilene ISD Musical Orchestra, performing with other professional musicians in the Abilene area. He is a member of the Pioneer Drive Baptist Church Orchestra where he also leads a bible study class for 8th grade students. He serves on the Cooper High School Student Council, an active community service organization serving Abilene and beyond. A high school senior, Owen plans to study music performance at Baylor University after graduation.

Sarah Ellyce Chen (age 15) is a 10th grader at Talkington School for Young Women Leaders in Lubbock, TX. She has been studying under the tutelage of Ya-Li Chung Pekowski since she was 5 1⁄2 years old, and has greatly benefitted from the mentoring of Dr. Richard Fountain and Dr. Carla Cash. She is a eight time All-State winner of the Texas Federation of Music Clubs State Festival and Competition, a 1st place winner in the 2019 Junior Division, 2nd place winner in the 2021 Senior Division of the Wayland Baptist University Piano Competition, and a 3rd place winter in the Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition for 2020 and 2022. She has won multiple competitions with the Great Composers Competitions, including 2nd place Rising Talents of Americas in 2022, 1st place in the 2021 Rising Talents of Americas, and 2nd place in the 2020 Best Haydn Performance. Sarah has also been playing the violin for 8 years, has been a member of Region 16’s top orchestra for 4 years, and has been a member of the Youth Orchestras of Lubbock (YOL) for 6 years. She enjoys academic competitions, representing her school at the 2022 Texas State Academic Decathlon meet, placing 1st and 2nd (Music and Literature). She also recently represented her school as an attorney in the Texas High School Mock Trial competition, with her school taking home 15th overall. She enjoys reading, traveling, socializing, participating in church activities, and learning new things. Her dream is to one day play Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto at Carnegie Hall. She is fascinated by the relationship between music and the brain, and is passionate about empowering girls to become leaders and giving voice to those who have none. 

These six finalists will compete Saturday, April 1st, 2023 at 3:00pm . These performances will be open and free to the public at Woodward-Dellis Recital Hall Hardin-Simmons University. If you have any questions, please contact us through our Facebook page.