Hitting the right note

Buck Hinman, a sophomore communication major and saxophonist from Asheville, was excited by a music competition that included non-music majors.

“One of the reasons I came to Wake Forest was that I wanted to evolve my music skills and talents, get involved with different groups and ensembles, and pursue a different major,” Hinman says.

Over the past 37 years, the Giles-Harris Competitions in Musical Performance have grown into a major event for Wake Forest’s pianists, singers and instrumentalists.

The 2014 in-house competition included six pianists and 20 instrumentalists or vocalists, from an array of majors and class years. In previous competitions, the music performed is from a specific era or genre, but this year the music was of the performers’ choice.

Judges, who are highly qualified musicians from outside of the university, choose the winning performances. Eileen Young, adjunct assistant professor of clarinet, saxophone and woodwind ensembles, appreciates that the judges are different each year.

“This allows our students to focus on their best, and most expressive, musical qualities without trying to figure out a formula or play to certain preferences,” she says.

Third time’s a charm

A double major in chemistry and music performance, Holly Pan chose to play two Mendelssohn pieces from the songs without words collections in the piano competition.

This was Pan’s third Giles-Harris competition, so she knew what to expect.

“I have realized, after two years, that Giles-Harris is meant to be a fun,” she says. “I have made lots of pianist friends and we have created a community at Wake Forest. After I perform, they often give feedback, which we are all open to because we are supportive of one another and want to see our peers, and our friends, succeed.”

Pan practices with Louis Goldstein, professor of music, who has offered her opportunities to perform on and off campus. He has organized several performances at Arbor Acres, a retirement community in Winston-Salem.

“To have the opportunity to perform in front of people mutually benefits the residents and the students,” Pan says. “It gives us the opportunity to better our music and performance skills, while the residents get the chance to hear live music.”

Giles-Harris is another opportunity to better students’ performance skills and showcase their talents. Pan admits that winning is not her priority, instead she prefers to demonstrate her talent and uses the competitions as another opportunity to prepare for her spring recital in April.

Practice makes perfect

Natalie Michaels, a junior double major in vocal music performance and theatre, has been a participant in the competitions since her first-year at Wake Forest. Through weekly lessons with Teresa Radomski, she has been able to step outside her comfort zone.

“I wasn’t classically trained before attending Wake Forest,” says Michaels. “I have been able to play around with different eras, composers and languages, from French to Italian, and this year, I even started German.”

Michaels performed the very challenging “Chansons de Ronsard,” by Darius Milhaud, a 20th century French composer. She chose to work on a piece that she was already confident with, so that she could continue to practice and make it better.

“Professor Radomski has worked with me to further develop my range, which has helped me identify my sound,” she says. “I have the confidence to compete, perform and display what I have worked so hard for over the past year.”

As a teacher and vocalist, Radomski is grateful to the competitions for the focused discipline and dedication they inspire.

“Giles-Harris truly brings out the best of our student performances and it’s always a pleasure to witness this accomplishment,” Radomski says.


  • Emma Huelskamp: 1st Place Performance by an Instrumentalist, The Joseph Pleasant and Marguerite Nutt Sloan Award
  • Jeremy Sexton: 2nd Place Performance by an Instrumentalist, The Patricia Sloan Mize Award
  • Ann Hill: Award for Outstanding Performance by a Non-Music Major
  • Katherine Sebastian: Award for Outstanding Performance by a Singer
  • Aaron Lee: 1st Place Piano Competition, The Sinal Prize
  • Holly Pan: 2nd Place Piano Competition, The Marc and Kirk Elvy Award
  • Xiaofan Sun: The Ward Virts Prize for Pianistic Expressiveness
  • Previous Giles-Harris award winners »

Categories: Alumni, Arts & Culture, Campus Life, Faculty, Mentoring, Student, Top Stories, Uncategorized