Renee Zhang is a senior at Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon, where she maintains a 4.49 GPA. She has been playing the violin and the piano for over 11 years since she first started at the age of 5. Since then, she has been a consistent participant and winner in both violin and piano competitions, including the OMTA Classical, Ensemble, Contemporary, and Romantic Festivals, the Trula Whelan Concerto Competition, and the Scholarship Awards Competition.
Renee was one of the winners in the Jewish Community Orchestra of Portland’s Young Artists competition and played Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso with the orchestra on February 8, 2015. She was also one of the winners of the 2015 Monday Musical Club Scholarship Competition, winning a $1,500 scholarship. She currently studies with Kathryn Gray, a retired Oregon Symphony musician.
Last year, Renee was also the MYS Concerto Competition winner, and performed the entire Wieniawski Concerto No. 2 on June 6, 2015 with the MYS Symphony Orchestra, of which she is the concertmaster. She also later performed the first movement of this concerto with the Symphony Orchestra at the annual Waterfront Concert on September 3, 2015. This year, she is again a principal player with the MYS organization, where she plays in the organization’s top chamber ensemble MYSfits. In addition, Renee is the concertmaster of her school orchestra and the first violinist in her school’s top chamber ensemble.
Nita Van Pelt
The clarinet came into Nita Van Pelt’s life when she was nine years old. It immediately became a favorite. Nita studied with Jim Buchmann and John Stehn in the Portland, OR area and played at Sunset High School in Beaverton. The clarinet then lead her to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio where she studied with Larry McDonald. While at Oberlin she earned Bachelor of Music and Master of Music Education Degrees. Her public school teaching career started in Elyria, Ohio teaching band and orchestra for 5 years. She also was Assistant Conductor with the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra. Nita came back to Oregon in 1986 and started in on what would become her 30 year tenure at the Lake Oswego Public Schools teaching primarily string orchestras. Nita retired in 2016 from a total of 35 years teaching. She was awarded the Distinguished Music Education Alumna Award from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Mary V. Dodge Award from the Portland Youth Philharmonic. Nita will continue as the conductor of the Interlude Orchestra with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and as Principal Clarinet with OPACO. Playing the clarinet is now her primary focus and fun!