LVC Announces Winners of Annual Concerto-Aria Competition

Lebanon Valley College music students

Each spring, LVC’s Music Department hosts a Concerto-Aria competition wherein winners are granted the opportunity to perform with the College’s Symphony Orchestra the following fall. Alaina Gawel ’23, Tessa Shaffer ’22, and Ben Leavitt ’22 were named this year’s winners.

A Bruce Springsteen CD sparked Gawel’s interest in music when she was just six years old.

“I learned the melody of a song that I liked by ear. My mom heard me playing that melody on an old toy keyboard we had and immediately knew that she had to sign me up for piano lessons,” said Gawel, a music education major from Johnstown, Pa. “From that point on, I knew that music was going to play a huge role in my life. I took piano lessons with the same teacher from the second grade up until I moved into college.”

Due to the ongoing pandemic, practicing for the competition was a bit different than in previous years. With the help of Dr. Hannes Dietrich, Newton and Adelaide Burgner Endowed Professor of Instrumental Music, Gawel focused on the character of each section of her performance piece, the second movement of Symphonie Espagnole by Èdouard Lalo. It was Gawel’s first time playing as a soloist. 

“Competing in this event definitely put me in a different mindset than I usually have with performing,” said Gawel. “It was interesting to see how different it was from a typical recital setting.”

Shaffer, a music education major from Harrisburg, Pa., and Leavitt, a double major in music and music education from Woodbine, Md., performed Il Convegno, a clarinet duet written by Amilcare Ponchielli, for the competition. Due to COVID restrictions, the two practiced separately initially. 

“We had to make sure we knew our parts and could play them fairly well before putting it together as a duet,” said Shaffer. “This step was extra important because we could not practice together as often as we wanted to due to COVID.” 

Shaffer realized she was interested in music at age five when she sang in her church choir. 

“I always enjoyed singing. When I was in elementary school, I was really excited to start an instrument,” said Shaffer. “It was a new way to make music and share it with other people.”

For Leavitt, his love of music started in fourth grade when he began playing the clarinet. He has studied privately for eight years.

Gawel, Shaffer, and Leavitt are involved in numerous musical clubs and activities at LVC, including the Symphony Orchestra, The Pride of the Valley marching band, Symphonic Band, and Concert Choir.


-- Josh Hildebrand, LVC Marketing & Communications Student Assistant