Meet BCSO & MTAC’s “Artist of the Future” Winners We Missed Seeing Perform due to Pandemic

BCSO missed the chance to perform with, and hear, these amazing student musicians due to the pandemic – now, see & hear them featured here!

From Top Left, Clockwise: Catherine Cummings, Vanessa Niu, Kristie Lee, Honor Frisco

Beach Cities Symphony Orchestra, due to the pandemic, had to forego its May 2020 concert which would have featured the winners of our MTAC “Artists of the Future” competition. While we may not have been able to perform in person with these amazing student soloists, we can certainly feature them here on our website. Meet our crazy talented student musicians, Catherine Cummings, Vanessa Niu, Kristie Lee, and Honor Frisco. See below for their bios and snippets of their musical performances with which they won the annual BCSO competition.

Catherine Cummings, age 11, is a sixth-grade student at Rolling Hills Country Day School. She
began learning piano at the age of four and has been a student of Keel’s piano studio since then.

Catherine made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2019 as a winner of the American Protégé
Competition. She also won first prize in the Great Composers 20th Century Music Competition,
CAPMT Regional Sonata Competition, and the South Bay MTAC Scholarship Competition. In
addition, Catherine has been a branch and regional winner of SCJBF in the past years. In 2020,
she won first place in the CAPMT Regional Concerto Competition and second place in the
CAPMT State Finals Concerto Competition. She was selected as a winner of the MTAC’s Artists of the Future Competition and will perform with the Beach Cities Symphony. In 2017, Catherine studied abroad and was accepted into both the competitive piano and ballet programs of the prestigious Conservatoire de Lyon in Lyon, France. She was invited to join the American Ballet Theater’s highly selective summer intensive program in 2019.

In addition to piano and ballet, Catherine plays flute and received State Honors in the Certificate of Merit in flute in 2019 and 2020. She also enjoys artistic drawing and creative writing. Her artworks were selected and featured by the Palos Verdes Library District. Watch Catherine perform her piano solo here!

Honor Frisco recently turned fifteen and lives in Palos Verdes Estates, California.
He began his piano studies at the age of five and quickly became an accomplished young pianist. From an early age, he has garnered multiple awards from various competitions including the first prize state winner of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT) Contemporary Music Festival, silver medalist at the Southern California Junior Bach Festival Complete Works (SCJBF), and multiple first prizes from the Southwestern Youth Music Festival (SYMF). Honor has been recognized as a Top Talent National Winner in the National Playing Auditions from the National Guild of Piano Teachers. In 2017, Honor received first prize in the Orange County Music Teacher’s Association of California (MTAC) Piano Solo Competition and was awarded third prize in the CAPMT Sonata-Sonatina Festival. Most recently, he was also awarded Second Prize in the global online Great Composers Competition for The Music of the 19th Century category. Honor currently studies piano with Mrs. Esther Keel.

In addition to piano, Honor is an accomplished violinist and has won the bronze medal for the
SCJBF Complete Works competition, first prize in the MTAC Scholarship Auditions, and first
prize in two open categories at SYMF. He recently participated in the prestigious MTAC VOCE
competition and was selected as a violin duet winner and will advance to the 2020 California
state finals. Honor has been the concertmaster of the Palos Verdes School District Advanced
String Ensemble and the Colburn String Ensemble. He is currently a member of the Palos Verdes Regional Symphony Orchestra and is a regular soloist with the orchestra’s Chamber group.

Honor currently studies violin with Mr. Elmer Su. Watch Honor perform here!


Kristie Lee, age sixteen, is a senior at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. Kristie began her
violin study at the age of seven and is currently under the tutelage of Elmer Su. She has won
numerous awards including first place at ASTA South Bay, first place at Korea Times
Competition, second place at CAPMT Concerto Competition and second place at VOCE South
Bay. Kristie has also won many awards from various categories of the SYMF competition as
well. She is currently the Concertmistress of both the Pacific Vision Youth Symphony and the
Palos Verdes Peninsula High Orchestra as well as being the Associate Concertmistress in Palos Verdes Regional Symphony Orchestra. Through being an assistant teacher for the PVRSO Young Musician program for five years, Kristie has been able to share her passion for music in her community every week through teaching young children about music and the violin.

Vanessa Niu, 15, is a sophomore at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School (PVPHS). Vanessa
began her violin studies under the guidance of Mr. Elmer Su at age ten. Vanessa was the
concertmaster of the award-winning Palos Verdes Intermediate School Chamber Orchestra and is currently a member of the PVPHS Symphonic Orchestra and the Palos Verdes Regional
Symphony Orchestra (PVRSO) as a first violinist. Vanessa has placed first in numerous
competitions including the Music Teachers’ Association of California (MTAC) South Bay
Artists of the Future Concerto Competition, the MTAC South Bay Branch Scholarship
competition, solo and ensemble competitions at the Southwestern Youth Music Festival
(SYMF), and most recently the MTAC Voice, Orchestral, Chamber, and Ensemble (VOCE)
South Bay Branch Solo Competition.

In 2019, Vanessa was awarded second place at the State Finals of the Southern California Junior Bach Festival Complete Works Audition.Vanessa has also completed Panel Level Certificate of Merit in piano under the tutelage of Ms. Betty Cheung and has won third place in the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT) Sonatina/ Sonata Competition for piano. Vanessa has had solo and ensemble appearances with the PVRSO and its chamber orchestra. She also enjoys contributing to her community through her passion for music as a frequent Music Students’ Service League (MSSL) performer in various local senior homes and as an assistant teacher for the PVRSO Young Violinists program.

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