Young Artist Competition Winners
Sarah Obert, 19, Musical Theatre BFA, Sophomore
“The theatre and music departments initially attracted me to Millikin, and then I came to campus and really felt at home with the entire community.
MDSO works so professionally. Every chance I’ve been given to listen to them is a blessing. It’s great to have such a hardworking and talented group of musicians right here in Decatur. Being able to perform with MDSO is a great honor. I know I need to rise to the occasion, so I can meet their level of musicianship and professionalism, and I am so excited to collaborate with such a large group.
In a way, winning the competition feels like a kind of reassurance that I’m progressing as a performer. Sometimes I think we forget while we’re on the journey, just where it was where we started, and where we have yet to go. Winning is a huge honor for me and I don’t take it lightly. At the same time, I’m viewing this as a really great opportunity to listen to and a perform with artists who put in hard work. If anything, this makes me want to work even harder!
After graduation, I hope to continue a life of performance in versions degrees. I am open to possibilities.”
Leon Lewis-Nicol, 23, Commercial Music, Junior
“I was a self-taught pianist for 10 years prior to my move to the US in 2016 to study piano with an instructor. I feel this is an important part of my story because it shows that nothing is impossible regardless of your background.
I chose Millikin because it looked like a school where I could delve into piano performance but also get a better understanding of the music industry. The idea of a commercial music program that would allow me to explore whatever I wanted as a pianist was very attractive to me.
Performing with MDSO is a huge honor for me because I’m able to play with amazing musicians. I feel this experience is going to push me to be better musician and performer. Also, it feels good because it shows that hard-work pays off, however it is just the beginning. There is always room for improvement.
My short-term goal is to become a composer/arranger of commercial music or performer. In the long-run I dream of going back to Sierra Leone to create a music environment for kids who grew up just like me with few opportunities.”
Trevor Stout, 22, Music Performance, Senior
I’m from Decatur, but I wasn’t really looking at Millikin until Randy Reyman called me to take a lesson after hearing me solo at IMEA All-State. After the lesson, the decision was easy.
I’m currently on the grad school application rush, so a master’s degree is the next step. Someday I’d like to have a doctorate and be able to teach at the college level.
I’ve had the opportunity to play with MDSO for a few semesters as part of the trumpet section, and it’s the most challenging part of my undergraduate studies. The challenge helps me grow. This experience has been incredible. There is no feeling like the one I have after finishing a particularly difficult concert (i.e. Pines of Rome, Shostakovich). MDSO is an experience unlike any other at Millikin. The group has helped my musicianship grow exponentially.
Winning this competition has been a goal of mine since my sophomore year. I auditioned last year and didn’t make it, so getting the opportunity now feels absolutely amazing.