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Violin prodigy: Young musician scores in contest

Sadie Hamrin relaxes in one of the rehearsal rooms at Bemidji State University as she prepares to play a selection from her Young Artists Competition of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra piece, Viotti's Concerto 23, First Movement. Pioneer Photo/Patt Rall

When 3-year-old Sadie Hamrin watched her older sister, Sarah, play the viola, she knew she wanted to play an instrument as well.

And play she did on a 1/16-size violin with the Suzuki method. Now, the 9-year-old plays in the first violin section of the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra along side older, more experienced musicians.

But that is just part of the story of this youngster and her ability; she recently placed second in the Young Artists Competition of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra open to string students through high school from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Sadie, a fourth grader, was the youngest competitor there.

"I thought it sounded really fun" Sadie said. "I wasn't nervous."

She chose a piece from "Solos for Young Violinists" by Barbara Barber - the first movement of Giovanni Viotti's Concerto No. 3

"The piece had a lot of energy, it was fast," she said. "I loved it."

Sadie also said she was confident that she would place well in the competition. She played before three adjudicators and was one of 12 entrants.

Sadie's mother, Ramae Hamrin, said, "In the Suzuki Method, the young players are used to performing in public and do not develop stage fright. That is part of having that confidence and comfort in front of an audience. They are trained to play with all these other kids."

Suzuki Method goes to Book 10, and Sadie, who started Book 1 at age 4 with Frances Van Dorn, a certified Suzuki instructor, completed Book 9 at age 9.

Sadie and her siblings 12-year-old Sarah, who plays the viola, and 5-year-old Isaac, who plays the cello, are the children of Ramae and John Hamrin. They are all home schooled by their mother in Bemidji. Sadie started to play the cello with Van Dorn at age 4 and continued with this teacher until she reached the point whereshe needed more advanced techniques to be taught by a practicing violinist. That was the point when Michelle Laliberte became Sadie's teacher three years ago.

Laliberte said she recognized Sadie's talent at the first lesson.

"It was really a sense," she said. "Both (Sarah and Sadie), you could tell because of how receptive they are. You can suggest things and they can figure it out."

Laliberte is an adjunct instructor of violin and viola in the Department of Music at BSU and has pre-college and college students.

"The Youth Orchestra was a little easy," said Sadie when asked why she joined the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra almost two years ago. This is her second season with the BSO.

It is obvious to the audience that this young musician holds her own in the first violin section as she sits behind her teacher, Concert Master Laliberte. Sadie's mother plays in the second section behind her.

Sarah and Sadie are scheduled to be featured artists in the spring of 2011 when they will play the Mozart "Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra" with the BSO.

The week before the competition in Duluth, Sadie won first place in the Minnesota Music Teachers Association comprehensive exam in the Junior A category. Sarah placed first in the Junior B category at the same round of exams. They have already passed Levels 1-4 of comprehensive piano exams with high distinction. Both girls will compete in the final round of the MMTA piano competition in March in Minneapolis. They started piano lessons with Van Dorn at age 4. Their instructor for the past few years is Margaret Maxwell of the BSU Music Department.