Rice graduate student and clarinetist Lin Ma won first prize in the 2014 Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition held May 29-31 at Rice’s Alice Pratt Brown Hall, home of the Shepherd School of Music
Named in honor of Houston Symphony co-founder Ima Hogg, the prestigious international competition is open to musicians from 13 to 30 years of age who play standard orchestral instruments or piano. Following a rigorous preliminary audition process, four finalists are chosen to compete for the grand prize of $25,000 and the opportunity to perform at the Houston Symphony’s Houston Chronicle Concert, set for July 12.
The contest was the first international competition for Ma, a member of the inaugural class of the Shepherd School’s esteemed Artist Diploma program. He is the second Rice student or alum to win the prestigious competition. Ma is a student of Richie Hawley, professor of clarinet, who previously performed for 17 years as principal clarinet for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Ma also received a master’s of music from the Shepherd School in 2013.
“I feel very grateful to win this award,” Ma said. “The Shepherd School, especially my teacher, Richie Hawley, has done so much for me,” Ma said. “I am just so thankful to be a student here and to bring the award back to Rice.”
During the competition, Ma performed Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2 and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major.
Hawley said Ma has experienced a lot of growth and has really thrived in the musically rich environment of the Shepherd School.
“After Lin graduated (with his master’s degree), he applied for the Artist Diploma program,” Hawley said. “The program is very intense, and he really fit the criteria of the person we wanted to have in the woodwind slot.”
Regarding the Ima Hogg competition, Hawley said that Ma was “the outstanding performer that we were looking for (to enter the competition).”
“He’s not just someone who could do well in the competition, but is someone we knew could win first place,” Hawley said. “Likewise, he is someone who could not just perform in an orchestra but can win a position as principal clarinet in a major orchestra.”
Ma said the care and support he received while preparing for the competition were tremendous. He hopes to enter other international competitions and take advantage of the opportunity to perform solo works. Eventually, Ma hopes to have a position in a professional orchestra.
“Receiving such a big award in my first competition experience is a great encouragement to me,” Ma said.