May 27, 2020

PU Concerts Announces Creative Contest Winners

“SERENE ESCAPE”: Alyssa Cai, Princeton University Class of 2020, won first place and $1,000 in Princeton University Concerts’ sixth annual Creative Reactions Contest. Her colored pencil drawing was created in response to a Live Music Meditation with cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras.

How might one visually represent the experience of going to a Princeton University Concerts event? Thirty-two Princeton University students, both undergraduate and graduate, signed up to take on this challenge as part of the sixth annual Creative Reactions Contest, one of several programs sponsored by the concert series to engage students in classical music.

Getting free access to a range of Princeton University Concerts offerings — including traditional concerts, Performances Up Close with audience seated on stage, Live Music Meditations, and the Annual Chamber Jam — the students were offered the chance at a $1,000 prize if they anonymously submitted a drawing of their experience, with an accompanying artist statement about their work.

After two rounds of judging — the first by Princeton University Concerts staff, and the second by local artist Marsha Levin-Rojer, Lewis Center for the Arts lecturer and former Hodder Fellow Mario Moore, and staff graphic designer Tom Uhlein — one winner and five honorable mentions were awarded.

Alyssa Cai, a senior in the Class of 2020, received first place and $1,000 for her colored pencil drawing in response to a Live Music Meditation with cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras. First year students Nazdar Rosna Ayzit, Eliana Gagnon, and Sam Melton, Class of 2023, and sophomore students Helen So and Sandy Yang, Class of 2022, received honorable mention and $100 each. The winning submissions are posted online and distributed publicly by Princeton University Concerts.

The contest submissions were due at the beginning of April, after students transitioned off campus to a remote curriculum. As a result, the contest took on a new role: a respite from the stress of adapting to this new environment.

“Working on an art project that allowed me to reflect on a positive campus experience was a relief from academics and other stresses during the first few weeks home,” wrote first-place winner Cai. “During a time of extreme uncertainty, there is at least the constant of art and music that we can continue to share with one another.”

Cai’s winning submission is titled Serene Escape. In her accompanying artist statement, she shared: “As I sat down in the soaring space of Richardson Auditorium and gazed up at the geometric scaffolding, I felt enveloped by a golden light. Jean-Guihen Queyras’ playing was beautiful, and as I settled into the sounds of the strings and the silences (a wonderful component of reflection during the meditation session), I felt transported to other worlds. I could close my eyes and imagine a scene of complete serenity, an escape from the stresses of Princeton, which is what I tried to convey in my work.”

The Creative Reactions Contest, now in its sixth year, is hosted by the Student Ambassadors of Princeton University Concerts, a small group of classical music-loving students whose mission is to increase student interest and participation in Princeton University Concerts programs.  The contest is funded by Princeton University Concerts.  Each year PUC presents a professional concert series featuring renowned classical musicians from all over the world.

The Creative Reactions Contest seeks to further Princeton University Concerts’ mission by connecting students to the arts and celebrating classical music’s unique contributions.

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