Eastman student and senior Brian Sanders was recently selected among four other young musicians for the 2006 VSA arts Young Soloists Award from the nonprofit organization Very Special Arts of Wisconsin. Each student honored receives $5,000 as well as the opportunity to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Sanders was born with two fingers on his right hand. By age 10, he was already playing the cello eagerly. Growing up in Madison, WI., Sanders was in the local youth symphony and become a principal cellist by his junior year. Graduating in 2002, Sanders started his Eastman education in Rochester the following fall.

Majoring in cello performance, Sanders is now one of the principal cellists of Eastman’s Philharmonia. His “unique hand”, as Sanders calls it, has made it almost a necessity for him to create his own bow technique.

VSA of Wisconsin has been following Sanders and his art for years.

In 1974, Ambassador Kennedy Smith began VSA with the intention of creating a society where all people with disabilities could learn about, participate in and enjoy the arts.

VSA works hard to showcase the accomplishments of artists with disabilities as well as to promote increased access to the arts for people who are living with disabilities.

Each year, millions of people participate through nations worldwide in VSA. As a part of the VSA program, the VSA art Young Soloists Program began in 1984 and was created in an effort to identify the passionate and talented young musicians who lived and performed with disabilities.

The goal behind the program was to support and encourage young students to turn their talents into lifelong professions. Each year, a selective committee of prominent music professionals gathers together and selects the recipients for the award, choosing candidates most worthy of the honor.

“We are thrilled that Sanders has been recognized nationally,” President of VSA of Wisconsin Kathie Wagner said in a recent press release. “I have attended Young Soloist performances in the past years and it’s great to know what a help this will be in launching Brian’s career,”

Recognition like this is wonderful for a talented yet physically limited student like Sanders who has devoted much of his life to excelling in his passion for playing the cello. It is also a moment of pride for a musical institution like Eastman.

Eastman is among the most prestigious of all music schools in the country. It proudly admits students of all levels and experiences within the music world who have the desire to expand their love for the musical arts as well as to encourage the freedom of expression when it comes to music and perfomance.

“The arts have benefited my life in more ways than I can say,” Sanders said. “Suffice to say that the arts are my life.”

Sanders still continues to work on his unique bow technique for both his right and left hands and makes it clear that he is very confident in the continuation of his progress. He hopes that something like this will allow and enable him to attain musicianship of the absolute highest level, regardless of any disabilities he has that may interfere and stand in his way.

“Accomplishing this will be no easy matter, of course,” Sanders said. “It will require a great deal of patient practice in the end my hard work will pay off.”

This is not the first award that Sanders has received for his outstanding work in the music world. He was a three-time recipient of the VSA of Wisconsin’s Earl and Eugenia Quirk Scholarship. This award was designed primarily to encourage as well as enable students from Wisconsin with disabilities to continue to devolop their abilities artistically, as well as to pursue a career in the arts.

Lewis can be reached at slewis@campustimes.org.



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