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Sanford Students and Siblings Win International Music Awards

Rising eighth graders Andrés and Valentina Ramos took their musical talents to new levels and participated in numerous international competitions—all from their home in Greenville, Delaware—during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their music competitions and master studies were virtual and rewarding, but no less work than live performances.
Most recently, Andrés and Valentina competed amongst more than 400 entrants in the Nouvelles Étoiles Fourth Edition International Young Musicians Competition in France, where they both won first-place laureate awards for harp and piano, respectively.

On June 6th, Valentina’s result at the 2021 Princeton Festival’s 15th annual International Youth Piano Competition was announced: overall winner of the Intermediate Artist (age 10–12) category for her performance of Beethoven’s Bagatelle in A minor, op. 119, no. 9. The festival included competitors from 25 States and 32 countries, including Qatar, China, India and Turkey.

Back in March, Andrés and Valentina competed in the 2021 Alpin Triglav International Music Competition with young musicians from more than 20 countries. Valentina received the first-place laureate for piano and was the Grand Prix winner for the harp. Andrés won second place for the harp in his age group. As winners, they were invited by the Embassy of Ukraine, Honorary Consulate of Ukraine, and International Academy of SPEKTR to perform at The Grand Concert Hall in Slovenia, but due to COVID travel restrictions, they will wait to travel and fulfill their invitations.

“Through COVID, out of lemons we made lemonade,” explains their mother, Jennie Hon. As virtual students, they invested their time in extra music lessons and practices.

Andrés and Valentina have shared their musical talent locally, too. They created video performances for local assisted living facilities to entertain the elderly during COVID. They received many thank yous for these efforts.

Valentina began piano lessons with Ms. Eunice Kim at Sanford in fourth grade. One year later, she started harp lessons with Ms. Kim as well. Currently, she studies with master pianist Ms. Natalia Varlashova, Maestro Tiziano Rossetti, and master harpist Ms. Anne Sullivan.

At age ten, Valentina performed at Carnegie Hall on both the piano and harp as the first-place winner of the Elite International Music Competition. She told her mother, “I don’t want people to think I got lucky because I won once.” With that in mind, Valentina decided to continue competing.

Andrés began guitar lessons also in fourth grade and harp lessons a year later with Eunice Kim. Now at twelve years old, he also studies with master harpist Ms. Anne Sullivan. In 2021, he participated in several competitions. For the International School of Culture and Art in Lugano, Switzerland, he received a score of 98/100 for his harp performance in their music competition.

In 2021, Valentina won first place and Andrés won second place in The American Harp Society Competition, Philadelphia Chapter. “This competition was sentimental to the kids because they were both previous winners. So to be able to win again was really special to them,” Jennie explained.

“When they receive feedback from the jury, it is very exciting,” says their mom. “The whole point of these competitions is to make progress, to get a wider, more diversified perspective of their music. Like sports, the same athlete may not win a championship every year; but it is important to maintain consistency.”

Both children have also discovered that video auditions are not as easy as one may think. “We have to keep in mind that the judges will take their time to watch every second, every movement. They can replay and rewind their performances and compare them to other performers quite easily,” Jennie reveals.

“As parents, my husband and I are grateful to have two healthy, happy children who are eager to learn and work hard. We are proud of their achievements in all arenas. We also respect that competitions are not for everyone. Many talented performers and athletes do not choose to compete. We appreciate Sanford’s Geipel Center and we look forward to utilizing it next year, in person, again.” 

If you would like to see a sampling of Andrés and Valentina's performances, check out this video.
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