Los Angeles (August 8, 2019) – The “Play with Ray” competition came to a conclusion with the reveal of the winner – Laura Kukkonen, of Helsinki, Finland. The announcement was made by violinist Ray Chen right before Kukkonen joined him onstage at the Hollywood Bowl to perform the first movement of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto with the LA Phil, led by Ben Gernon, Thursday, Aug. 8.
In a surprise twist, the runners up, Adriana Bec, age 13, of San Antonio, TX, and Youngji Kim, age 22, of Daegu, South Korea, performed the Bach with the LA Phil first violins.
The international skills-based competition began in late March. More than 800 people, ranging in ages from 6 to 76, from 73 countries and six continents submitted videos of themselves performing alongside a video of Chen provided by the LA Phil.
A panel of judges narrowed down the submissions to the three finalists. All three were flown to Los Angeles and, in the days leading up to the concert, received coaching and attended masterclasses and concerts with Chen. They were also able to practice on rare violins from Tarisio, the leading international purveyor of fine instruments and bows, which provided a 1775 Guadagnini violin for Kukkonen’s performance.
In addition, the group was able to take in the sights of Los Angeles, which included a trip to Universal Studios.
The final decision came down to Chen who conceived of the idea for the competition years ago.
Of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, Kukkonen said, ”There are not enough words to describe how thankful I am for this experience. Getting a masterclass from Ray, playing on Guadagninis, doing extra activities, making new friends and, finally, performing with the outstanding professionals at the Hollywood Bowl - all of these are a dream come true and even more. This opportunity shows rare kindness and generosity which we often lack these days.”
“This competition has been an amazing experience,” said Chen, “The partnership with the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl brought my dream to life of being able to provide people around the world a fun and unique opportunity, and to have a little something extra to practice for. All of these young women are immensely talented musicians and I predict bright futures for all of them.”
Kukkonen was born in Helsinki, Finland. Though there weren’t any musicians in her family, she began to show a strong interest in music when gifted with a toy piano at the age of 3 by her parents. On the advice of one of her teachers, her parents enrolled her in music school. She began studying at East-Helsinki Music Institute at age seven. In 2012, she performed as a soloist with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and won 1st and 2nd place in the International Arthur Rubinstein Competition in 2013 and 2016, respectively. She is currently studying with Professor Réka Szilvay at the Sibelius Academy Youth Department.
The concert was livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube.
About Ray Chen
Ray Chen is a violinist who redefines what it is to be a classical musician in the 21st century. With a media presence reaching millions, Ray Chen transmits remarkable musicianship to a global audience, which is reflected in his engagements with the foremost orchestras and concert halls around the world.
About the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association
The LA Phil, under the vibrant leadership of Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, presents an inspiring array of music from all genres – orchestral, chamber, and Baroque music, organ and celebrity recitals, new music, jazz, world music, and pop – at two of L.A.’s iconic venues, Walt Disney Concert Hall (laphil.com) and the Hollywood Bowl (hollywoodbowl.com). The LA Phil’s season at Walt Disney Concert Hall extends from September through June and throughout the summer at the Hollywood Bowl. With the preeminent Los Angeles Philharmonic at the foundation of its offerings, the LA Phil aims to enrich and transform lives through music, with a robust mix of artistic, learning, and community programs.
One of the largest natural amphitheaters in the world, with a seating capacity of nearly 18,000, the Hollywood Bowl has been the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since its official opening in 1922 and plays host to the finest artists from all genres of music, offering something for everyone. It remains one of the best deals anywhere in Los Angeles; to this day, $1 buys a seat at the top of the Bowl for many classical and jazz performances. In February 2018, the Hollywood Bowl was named Best Major Outdoor Concert Venue for the 14th year in a row at the 29th Annual Pollstar Awards, and in November 2018 was awarded the Top Amphitheater prize at the 2018 Billboard Live Music Awards for the second consecutive year. For millions of music lovers across Southern California, the Hollywood Bowl is synonymous with summer. hollywoodbowl.com