Teen wins classical music contest

By Jennifer Shapiro-Sacks, Special Correspondent

Josiah Blanchette has been playing the violin since he was 5 and loves classical music.

His passion paid off as the 17-year-old Coral Springs resident recently won the Reach Out contest staged by Classical South Florida.

“I was surprised and very happy,” said Blanchette, who won a Bose Wave music system.

Blanchette, who will be a senior at Florida Virtual School, submitted a letter to a performer he was interested in from “From the Top,” an hour-long radio program showcasing top young classical musicians and heard Sundays on 89.7 FM in Broward.

The letter had to discuss what he liked about the music selection, how it was performed and why he likes classical music. He also had to ask the performer three questions regarding his experiences and what motivated him to study music, said Claire Crawford, major gifts officer for Classical South Florida, a nonprofit public radio organization dedicated to broadcasting classical music.

“I’m honored that they picked my essay. He [violinist Carson Marshall] had a learning disability that made it difficult for him to sight read, and I had a similar problem and found it nice to know there are other people [like me],” said Blanchette, who has a nonverbal learning disorder.

One of the judges was Justin Moss, director of Broward operations for the Florida Grand Opera.

“It appeared clear to me that Josiah had made a genuine and thoughtful connection with the music and that he was challenged to analyze what was going on with it and why he had reacted to it as he had,” Moss said.

This was the first year for the Reach Out contest, which was open to classical music fans ages 8 to 17.

“Prior to ‘From the Top’ being aired, there was no classical music broadcast in South Florida specifically for young people. We know that listening to radio in the home is the primary way that most young children are introduced to classical music,” Crawford said.

Blanchette currently plays in the Ars Flores Symphony Orchestra and previously was part of the Florida Youth Orchestra.

“It’s a really great program,” he said of Ars Flores. “Half of the orchestra is professional, and the other half is high school or college students. You sit next to a professional. I learned some tricks of the trade and learned stuff by sitting next to people who are better.”

Blanchette, who also enjoys writing and playing video games, said he listens to the classical music station every day. He plans to major in music and would like to be a composer.

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