A big day for small performers

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By: Ketil Mosnes
March 16, 2021

The Festival Youth Performance is both a brand new arena and the first step towards something bigger for many young musicians.

For many years, the Bergen International Festival has maintained the tradition of giving children and youth the opportunity to perform in front of a large audience. The concept - initially called Children's Festival Day - changed its name to the Festival Youth Performance in 2013, and has since then become an important part of the annual festival program. The Festival Youth Performance hand-picks children and teenagers from the various culture schools in the region, and puts together a program where the aspiring artists get to showcase their talents in front of a new audience. In terms of genre, the program includes classical, pop, jazz, folk music and dance performances, and the show takes place at the very heart of the festival: The Grieg Hall. For many of the students, the performance at the festival is one of the highlights during the school year, and several of the participants have later stepped up in the ranks of the professionals. Names like Kei Solvang (interview further down in the text) and Lisa Teige (later known as Eva in the TV series Skam) are among those who have made a name for themselves in the following years..Laila Kolve, who works as event manager at the Bergen Culture School, has this to say about the collaboration with the festival:‘This stage is perhaps the most prestigious arena for young talents in Bergen and the surrounding area. All of the culture schools in the region are invited to participate, and must submit recorded performances that are reviewed by a jury. Everyone knows that this is a big opportunity that comes around every spring. For the young artists, it is a huge motivation and a clear goal. Many of today's young professional top musicians from Bergen have participated in the Festival Youth Performance, and I can mention artists such as Amalie Stalheim, Miriam Sonoko Shimano Welde and Ingeborg Haugland. For many, the performance was decisive in regards to the choice of becoming a professional musician/artist.'When asked if there are special events or performances that Kolve would like to highlight, she says:‘More than anything, I want to highlight the diversity of the Youth Festival; young talents get to show their own artistic expression in a professional setting, and sometimes magic occurs on the stage.'

Bergen International Festival spoke to four musicians who performed at the show when they were children and in the starting pit of their careers. Here they talk - among other things - about the experiences of performing at such a large event at a young age, as well as how their careers have developed afterwards:

1. Being featured on the festival program at such a young age is quite something. How do you remember the experience of performing at the Festival Youth Performance?2. Are there any specific experiences from your performance that you have taken with you, and have been able to benefit from later in your career?3. In terms of music, what have you been doing in the years from the festival performance until today?4. Any advice for children and young people who are about to perform at the Festival Youth Performance in 2021?

Kei Solvang (Performed in 2016, -17 and -18. Piano)

1. I have participated at the Festival Youth Performance on three occasions, and every single one has been an educational and inspiring experience. I remember the second time as particularly inspirational. I also remember how exciting it was to get to know other performers, and spend the whole day preparing for the show. The highlight of course, is when you get to perform in a large room with a large audience. I remember all the performances as fun, however I was also slightly nervous.

2. I remember very clearly that I became stressed out during my last performance. Another performance earlier that night had made me miss the rehearsals as well as giving me limited time for the soundcheck. It was during this performance that I really learned how to handle this kind of stress. The concert went well, and I have brought the experience with me further into my career.

3. I have been participating in several contests, both in Norway and abroad. I have also had the honour of opening the 30 hours long live broadcast Grieg Minute By Minute on Norwegian state television in 2018, where I performed Op.1. Four Piano Pieces. That same year I started studying music at the Langhaugen high school in Bergen, and in January 2019 I was admitted to the talent programme at the Prof. Jiri Hlinka Piano Academy. Later that year I was also admitted to Nasjonalt klavertiltak, a new national programme for young pianists. In 2020 I was one of the semi-finalists at the televised competition Virtuos, and during the same month I was booked to do my own concert at Grieg’s home at Troldhaugen. Several of my other concerts in 2020 was cancelled because of the Coronavirus, however I have been able to do a few this autumn, among them a performance at Troldsalen in connection with the Bergen International Festival.

4. I recommend performing at the Festival Youth Performance as many times as possible, when given the opportunity. Ideally one should do both solo and chamber music. It’s a good opportunity for getting to know other performers, and to play in front of an audience.

Bjørn Helge Gammelsæter (Performed in 2011. Piano)

1. I remember the performance as very exciting! It was one of my first ‘real’ gigs, and it is indeed a good memory.2. I feel that all small experiences eventually merge into one large experience, but being able to participate in the concert was definitely good training in terms of standing in front of people in an ‘adult’ context.3. Since the performance, I have studied jazz piano at the Norwegian Academy of Music, I have also toured with several artists (Ruben, Iris, Depresno), and in recent years I have focused on songwriting and music production. Was lucky enough to participate on the song Lay By Me (released by the artist Ruben) which won the Norwegian Grammy in the category Song of the year.4. Advice for children and youth must be that it is completely OK to make mistakes! It happens to all of us, and I believe to this day that I have not played a single concert where everything went exactly as I wanted. You just have to get used to it and not get bogged down in details. It is the big picture that is important. It is also important to know that the audience always wishes you the best!! Good luck!

Tomine Mikkeline Eide (performed in 2013. Vocals)

1. I am grateful that I worked with music already as a child, as it gave me a good foundation for continuing my career when I got older. The Festival Youth Performance is of course included in what I just mentioned, as I sang there when I was very young. I believe that this was my first performance at the Bergen International Festival, and I remember being very excited about being a part of it!2. At that time I had already done quite a lot, however I remember it was the same year as my debut album was released on Universal Music. Because of the album, I was mainly surrounded by adults when I was working, so it felt good to be able to do something professional together with other young musicians. There was a lot of great talent and it was a beautiful concert. A great experience!3. Since the performance at the festival, I have been really busy continuing my singing career. I currently live in Oslo, where I combine acting studies and singing. I work a lot in the studio and perform regularly. Actually, I just released a Christmas song called Walking in the air.4. The most important thing is to have a good time and be the musician that you are. Don’t try to be anyone else. I’m aware that this statement is a bit of a cliché, but if you manage to relax and have fun, and you are enjoying what you do, your performance will indeed approve a lot. Good luck!

Edel Marie Bolstad (Performed in 2012. Piano)

1. I remember that it was really exciting to be a part of such a big festival. It was also the first time I played in the Grieg Hall, and it was a great and important experience for me.2. It was exciting to get to know all the young people who engaged in other forms of culture than myself. The fact that so many talented people were gathered in one place, gave me a sense of what it was like to be part of a professional set-up.3. After I played at the Festival Youth Performance, I got to play at several of the Grieg Academy's young talents foyer concerts, which are also part of the festival. I am now in my final year on a piano master degree at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. I am pursuing a career as a freelance musician and I have played at several of Norway's largest festivals.4. Try to enjoy the experience! Be inspired by all the others involved, whether they are involved in music, dance or something else. Imagine that you all work together to create one big and great show.

Festival Youth Performance/facts:
  • Originally called Children's Festival Day. Changed its name to the Festival Youth Performance in 2013.

  • Consists of one concert at the festival each year.

  • The Festival Youth Performance takes place in collaboration with Equinor's talent program Tomorrow's Heroes.

  • In 2019 children and teenagers from other parts of the country were given the opportunity to participate.

  • Director and host vary from year to year.

Supported by Vestland County Council

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