By Steve Sears
Ethan Chang is no stranger to winning musical competitions. He – rather his performances – have stamped his name at the top of the list of the many he has entered.
The Livingston High School Wind Symphony’s principal clarinetist, currently in his senior year at the school, was last year named Gold Prize winner of the 2019 National League of Performing Arts International Young Artist Competition, and this year he garnered highest rank in both the 2020 Crescendo International Competition and the 2020 Elite International Competition.
Now, Chang can add another honor to his name, winning the New Jersey Wind Symphony of Ridgewood, New Jersey’s 15th Annual Youth Soloist Competition. Entrants came from Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Union counties in New Jersey, as well as New York’s Rockland County.
The competition was in two stages. The first involved sending a recording of ones playing music with their respective instrument, and the second was a live, outdoors performance at Old Troy Park in Parsippany, New Jersey, where Chang was selected as the winner.
The Chang family as a whole are all musically inclined. Dad Seth plays violin and teaches the same. “My mom, actually, played the clarinet when she was in high school, but then she switched to becoming a piano major during her graduate studies,” says Chang, for whom piano and violin were first instruments of choice. However, when seeing older sister, Elynn, play the clarinet, he recalls, “I was willing to give it a try, and after trying it, I guess I really like the instrument.” He immediately fell in love with it and made it a pairing.
It’s no surprise that the 17-year-old’s star has ascended. He studies clarinet with instructors from Manhattan’s The Juilliard School, and his resume is stellar. He performs with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Academy Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony Chamber Music Program, and the Region I Orchestra of the North Jersey School Music Association, and he has taken the stage at Carnegie Hall, the Orchestra of Saint Luke’s DiMenna Center for Classical Music, Kaufman Music Center’s Merkin Concert Hall, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Per Chang, the Livingston Wind Symphony is considered a high school course, and it’s one of three of the school’s bands, the Marching and Symphonic Bands the other two. Michael Jedwabnik, who both composes and writes music, is Director of Bands at Livingston High School.
As for his future, Chang is not looking at conservatories or a music school per se, but at colleges with strong music programs that at the same time offer courses in areas outside of music. Boston University, Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University, and the University of Southern California are high on his list of possible choices.
Chang’s ultimate goal for now is to perform directly next to a conductor. “As a soloist, with an orchestra, as an accompaniment,” he explains. “I’ve never been able to play by myself with an accompaniment that is just not only piano.”
More information about the Youth Soloist Competition may be found at www.njwindsymphony.org/youth-soloist-competition/.