2018 Youth Concerto Competition Winners


Aria Posner

   Aria Posner, a senior at Decatur High School, first started cello at age five, studying with Bonnie Bull. Two years later she met Pamela Devenport and became her student for the next three years.  When Ms. Devenport moved to New York state, Aria was introduced to Martha Gerschefski of Georgia State and studied with Ms. Gerschefski until her recent retirement to South Carolina.  For the past seven months, Aria has studied with Alan Rafferty, professor at Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music via Skype and Danny Laufer of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

    Aria is a very active orchestral and chamber player.  This is Aria’s fifth year with the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, having served as principal cellist for the past two seasons.  She was also principal cellist for the Emory Junior Chamber Orchestra (2013-2015), for the Atlanta Junior Chamber Orchestra (2012-2013) and for MYSO Chamber Orchestra (2010-2012).  This is Aria’s fourth year with Franklin Pond’s Fall into Spring Chamber Program, where she is a current member of the Yinz Cello Quartet.  Aria also enjoys playing with the CBH Strings, an intergenerational string ensemble at Congregation Bet Haverim. For the past few summers, Aria has traveled to several music festivals including Bowdoin International Music Festival, Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, and Sewanee Summer Music Festival.  

    Aria soloed with orchestra at age 10 as a soloist with the MYSO chamber orchestra.  She was also a soloist with the Atlanta Community Orchestra as the 1st place winner of the Ruth Kern Concerto Competition in 2013, and a soloist with the Augusta Symphony Orchestra as the winner of the SOA Concerto Competition in 2013.  In 2014 Aria was a featured soloist with the EJCO at Lincoln Center. Other honors include master classes with Paul Watkins, Peter Oundijan and Steven Isserlis, and seven years participating in Georgia’s All-State Orchestra.

    Aria especially enjoys using her love of music to give back to the community.  She is an active participant of the CBH Strings fundraising concert series and in 2016 Aria founded the Concert to Cure performance series, a series of concerts that raise money to support the Ovarian Cancer Institute. In addition to music, Aria enjoys spending time with friends and family as well as knitting, coffee and puns.

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Ava Crook

  Ava began her harp studies at the age of six with Atlanta Opera Principal Harpist, Susan Bennett Brady.  She has participated in numerous international and national harp solo competitions. Ava has competed twice in the Young Artist Harp Seminar Competition, where she was a finalist in 2014 and 2nd prize winner in 2016.  Additionally, she was awarded an honorable mention in the 2017 American Harp Society Solo Competition, where she also earned the Karl Carlson Award. She has worked with various notable harpists, such as Bridget Kibbey, Katherine Siochi, Katie Buckley, Alice Giles, Lynn Aspnes, Mary Roman, Florence Sitruck, and Nancy Allen.

    Ava is actively involved with the Atlanta Harp Ensemble and the Young Artist Harp Seminar, where she enjoys spending time with other young harp students. Currently in the 8th grade, she enjoys reading, Bible journaling, and creative writing.


Rachel McClellan

   Rachel Leigh McClellan lives in Good Hope, Georgia. She has been a GMEA All-State Violinist for four years, most recently as a soloist for the Introduction and Allegro for String Quartet and Orchestra by Edward Elgar.  She also participated for two years in the International Winter Festival at Vale Veneto, Brazil, where she served as associate concertmaster.  She has appeared in recitals on the High Shoals Chamber Music Series and has performed as a member of the Aurelia Piano Trio. She regularly plays for church services at Great Oaks Senior Living in Conyers, GA and at Monroe Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Monroe, GA. 

    A homeschooled high school senior, Rachel studies violin with Kristin Jutras and has studied piano with her mother, Erica McClellan.  Besides playing the violin, she enjoys gardening, flower arranging, caring for children, and teaching English Country Dancing. 

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Rebekah Willard

   Already a seasoned performer at age 17, Rebekah Willard, of Albany, Ga., is the Senior Strings Performance First Place winner of the MTNA auditions for the state of Georgia in 2017 and the GMTA Concerto Competition Winner for 2017. Rebekah was the third place winner in the Georgia Kiwanis Music Showcase. She recently was selected to attend the elite National Youth Orchestra (NY02) summer program hosted by the Carnegie Foundation in New York, where she performed in master classes for Pamela Frank, Daniel Han, and Paul Arnold.


   In 2015,Rebekah was the Junior Strings Performance Winner representing Georgia. She has also been awarded an Outstanding Performer (4th place rating) in the 2015 GMTA concerto competition, as well as first alternate in the GMTA solo violin category in the spring of 2015.

   In 2013 at the age of 12, Rebekah was the Apprentice Category winner of the Samuel Fordis Young Artist  Concerto Competition in Atlanta, GA., presented by the Georgia Philharmonic. 

As the winner, she debuted as the featured soloist, performing the third movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. She was also chosen to be the recipient of the cash scholarship awarded among all finalists. Later that same year, Rebekah was awarded Honorable Mention in the Junior Strings division of MTNA. She was the 2011 Winner of GMTA Spring Auditions and was chosen Conference Recitalist, performing on the Winners recital of the GMTA Annual Conference.


   Rebekah has had the privilege of performing in Master Classes for Stephen Clapp, former Dean of The Juilliard School, Brian Lewis, Professor at UT Austin, and Timothy Lees, Concertmaster for the Cincinnati Symphony and University of Cincinnati faculty member. Rebekah has also had the honor of performing in a variety of concert venues. In 2015 she performed as a soloist and ensemble member on the Grand Old Opry Stage and the Bluegrass Underground in Tennessee.  In 2011, she was selected by audition to perform in Carnegie Hall as part of the Heritage Series with the True North Orchestra. She regularly appears on recitals, civic, church, and community events in Atlanta, Albany, and surrounding communities. She enjoys sharing her love of music with others wherever she can.

   In 2010, Rebekah began studying with Sonja Foster, a Juilliard School and Curtis Institute alumna who has a private studio for the gifted in Atlanta. Each week, her mother drives her seven hours round trip for her lesson. Since then she has progressed so much that she performs college level repertoire. She is a dedicated and diligent student.

   Rebekah started the violin at the age of 5 with Anne Blyth of Albany, Ga., studying with her two years. She then studied with Lazlo Stan. She has also participated multiple times in the Fine Arts Summer Academy hosted by the Annie Moses Band at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN.


   She is the eldest of four children in a very musical family. Her sister studies the cello, and her youngest brother studies the piano. Her father, Mark Willard, a highly acclaimed composer and Dove award winning songwriter, is the the Minister of Music at Sherwood Baptist Church. Her mother is a professional pianist.  Rebekah is a homeschooled eleventh grader. Besides her passion for the violin, she is actively involved in ministry areas at her church, enjoys singing and playing the piano, running cross country, playing soccer, and writing. She has been recipient of the James Barnette Music Foundation Scholarship since 2010.