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June 12, 2006, 3:00PM

A violinist with all the right moves: Shih-Kai Lin wins Houston Symphony contest

(Excerpts taken from the Houston Chronicle, Copyright 2006.*)

A Taiwan-born violinist won the Houston Symphony's upgraded and newly ambitious 30th Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition on Saturday.

Playing with music director Hans Graf and the orchestra, Shih-Kai Lin, 22, won with an impassioned performance of Sibelius' Violin Concerto. He received $5,000 and a solo appearance during the annual Houston Chronicle Dollar Concert July 1 in Jones Hall, as well as the audience choice award.

Lin was the only finalist who displayed the sense of personality that aspiring soloists need to have the minute they walk onstage. The son of a businessman and a housewife, Lin came to the United States in 1999 to attend a high school-level boarding school for the arts in suburban Boston. Its music program is affiliated with the New England Conservatory of Music.

"(In the United States) I can get more experience to better my music education" including seeing live performances by great soloists and orchestras, Lin said. "Visually and aurally it's very important to attend their concerts."

A musical first

Saturday's finals in Rice University's Stude Concert Hall marked the first time the music director and orchestra participated in the competition. Previously, both semi-finals and finals were presented with piano accompaniment.

Their participation was "a major step for this competition," said Richard Dyer, music critic of the Boston Globe and one of the judges. Others were Daniel Hege, music director of the Syracuse Symphony, and Ron Merlino, a vice-president and artists representative with Columbia Artists Management Inc., a leading company in the field.

Behind the scenes, both the Houston Symphony League, the organizer of the competition, and symphony staff spent many months of more intense work and tighter cooperation than ever before.

An incredible moment

Lin, who has just completed the bachelor's program at the Juilliard School, will return for more studies, including, he hopes, the demanding Artist Diploma, which concentrates on performance. He studies with noted concert violinists Cho-Liang Lin and Naoko Tanaka.

His highest ambition is to be a concert violinist. "Winning this competition will help build confidence, experience and strength to go ahead to that goal. It's one of the most incredible moments of my life."

Lin was a recipient of the 2005 Youth Musical Scholars Foundation Scholarship for graduate study at Julliard School of Music.


Shih-Kai Lin won the 30th Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition with a performance of Sibelius' Violin Concerto.

Dave Rossman: For the Chronicle