On Monday, June 28, a young recorder player named Bryan Duerfeldt performed on the stage of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, along with the other 2012 US Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
In the audience was his Suzuki recorder teacher of ten years, Mary Halverson Waldo, who had been invited to the event because Bryan had named her as his “most influential teacher.”
“I am so glad I made the trip to Washington, DC,” said Mary. “The president’s erratic schedule only allowed for a video address to the Presidential Scholars and Teachers during a special dinner we had together. However, the US Secretary of Education spoke in person, as did the Teacher of the Year, who delivered a dynamite keynote address. The concert at the Kennedy Center knocked our socks off!”
Bryan studied Suzuki recorder with Mary at the MacPhail Centre for Music’s Talent Education program in Minneapolis. He began placing in national competitions and winning awards and scholarships as early as middle school. He has won the Piffaro Recorder Competition, Minnetonka Young Artist Competition, Schubert Club Bruce P. Carlson Student Scholarship Competition, and Thursday Musical Young Artist Scholarship Competition. He was also recently chosen as one of the five Minnesota Varsity Showcase Artists through Minnesota Public Radio. When his teacher Mary had to move away from the Minneapolis area in 2010, she asked her colleague at the St. Paul Conservatory, Clea Gahlano, to continue working with Bryan.
To be selected as a US Presidential Scholar in the Arts, Bryan was required to participate in and receive a nomination from YoungArts. Each year, YoungArts receives up to 5,000 applications for its national program. After a rigorous adjudication process, the organization nominates sixty YoungArts finalists for further consideration to the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. Finally, the Commission on Presidential Scholars, whose members are appointed by the President, select up to twenty US Presidential Scholars in the Arts each year. (For more information about YoungArts, visit www.youngarts.org .)
For an artistically talented graduating high school senior, inclusion in the US Presidential Scholars Program is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon them. The award is presented on behalf of the President of the United States, and selection is based upon academic, civic and artistic achievement. Each year, 141 US Presidential Scholars are recognized in various fields.
According to Bryan, “When my first notes, conceived with a purpose and a story in my mind, make the transition through my instrument to the audience, it is like I have been given a gift—a pure, simple mode of communication. I work, I practice, and I study so that my music can inspire. I am tremendously honored to be chosen, yet I know I would not be where I am today without the support of my wonderful family, talented teachers, and loyal friends. This recognition pushes myself toward loftier goals, so I may continue to be worthy of this award far into the future.”