“I thought I was too young to win this,” Oliver said. “There were a lot of older kids competing and I thought there were other kids that could have won.”
However, as Oliver describes the last note that emanated from his violin capping Jean Batiste Accolay’s “Concerto No. 1” on Dec. 11, he said a sense of calm came over him.
“I’m always nervous,” Oliver said about performing. “But this year when I stopped playing, I felt like I had done a good job.”
Oliver did better than good in the eyes of the judges. The fifth grader was declared the Junior Strings Division winner of the Concerto Competition as well as the grand prize winner. The honor made Oliver the youngest grand prize winner in the history of the competition. Also taking home top honors were violinist Andy Shao, who won for the Senior String Division and flutist Rachael Hartman, who won for the Woodwind/brass/percussion Division.
Making sure his entry in the Concerto Competition was perfected before taking the stage, Oliver said his violin teacher, Carol Laube, picked out the Accolay piece in the spring, giving him ample time to practice.
“She picked it out in May and I practiced it over the summer,” Oliver said. “It’s a really good piece, actually, I really like it.”
The changing themes, harmonies and musical textures in “Concerto No. 1” are intriguing, Oliver said.
“I like pieces that are not boring,” Oliver said. “Pieces that alternate from slow parts to fast. It’s really rhythmic. It changes the theme. It starts at one part and changes to another melody.”
Although Oliver is only 10 years old, his dedication to the violin started with an innocent question from his father, David Leitner: “Would you like to play?” Oliver’s response was an eager “yes” at only 3 years old when he started playing as part of the Suzuki Music Association of Reno/Tahoe.
The nonprofit program meets weekly to teach children the violin and holds a monthly recital at the University of Nevada, Reno. For more information, call 787-2344 or visit www.suzukiassociation.com.
It was one of the monthly recitals that Oliver vaguely remembers attending that sparked his musical interest, even though music runs in the family, according to David.
“His mother and I both enjoy music very much,” David said. “Our families play music.”
David said when Oliver began playing violin, his teacher was full of praise and his progress easily poured from the interment’s bow.
“As long as he’s enjoying what he’s doing, as long as he enjoys playing, and playing in front of people, that’s important,” David said. “We see he is happy with it.”
Since playing the violin, Oliver has had the opportunity to play with the Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, studied in Germany and currently is learning the flute. Oliver will also admit his love of Mozart.
“I like Mozart a lot because it has a very nice melodious tone,” Oliver said. “Like birds chirping in the forest.
“I think music kind of relaxes the mind,” Oliver added. “It just makes me feel good in a sense, it makes me feel relaxed.”
Relaxation is something Oliver might find in the music that he practices for an hour every morning before going to school, where he is also involved in swimming and tennis and enjoys playing soccer as well as participating on a local ski team.
For a busy 10-year-old, Oliver said he loves what he does and hopes others might find enjoyment in it as well.
“I would encourage other people to get into music,” Oliver said. “It just feels good.”
As part of winning the Concerto Competition, Oliver will perform a solo at the Reno Philharmonic’s spring concert in May. For more information, visit www.renophil.com.