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Winning the 2020 BYUH Music Scholarship Competition via video during the pandemic, says music majors, includes financial help and self-assurance

Gif of Nalani Matthais standing holding white flowered lei with music notes appearing in purple background.
First place winner Nalani Matthais.

Participants and judges gave thanks for the ability to hold the 2020 BYU–Hawaii Music Scholarship Competition virtually and shared their deep love in music’s power to find peace throughout troubling times.

The BYUH Music Scholarship Competition was held remotely through video recorded submissions. The competition consisted of three judges. The head judge was Helen Chao-Casano, the music school director at the Punahou School in Honolulu.

She said, “I would like to share what a pleasure it was to hear your talented students. They all showed such admirable commitment to their work as musicians, and the range of their repertoire and expression was impressive.”

Dr. Melissa Glenn, assistant professor at the Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing Arts, oversaw the competition this year. She said she was pleased that the competition adapted to COVID-19 restrictions and was held virtually.

“Rather than have the students forego the opportunity to compete for a scholarship and grow as musicians, we decided to find a way for them to compete virtually.”

The competition prizes included a full-tuition scholarship for first place, a three-quarter-tuition scholarship for second place, and a half-tuition scholarship for third place. To qualify for the competition, the students had to be music majors.

First place went to Nalani Matthais, second place went to Mana Yamamoto and third place went to Ralph Mallapre. Honorable mentions include Nawaphorn Ruangthap, Brandon Sorilla and Ru-Yun Edwards.

First place winner, Nalani Matthias, a sophomore from New Jersey, majoring in vocal performance, selected songs in English, French, and Italian, including an aria from Puccini's opera "La Bohème." For her, winning the full-tuition scholarship was both an honor and a blessing.

She said, “The music program at BYUH may be [small], but... we have a program full of extremely talented musicians.” Matthias said she did not expect to place in the competition, so she was surprised to learn she had won the whole thing.

“It is such an honor and blessing to receive a scholarship of any kind, and as college students, we all understand the financial trouble of paying for school.” She said, “This scholarship is going to help me immensely.”

Third place winner, Ralph Mallapre, a sophomore from the Philippines majoring in vocal performance, said placing in the top three helped him overcome self-doubt. He said, “I didn’t place in my first attempt to join the competition. It’s pretty hard to win competing with amazing musicians... but this placement makes me realize that I have a chance.”

Gif of Ralph Mallapre sitting on stand with music notes appearing in circle on a red/pink/purple background.
Third place winner Ralph Mallapre.

To prepare for the competition, Mallapre worked alongside his voice teacher to select the music for his submission. Mallapre said, “Deciding what song to sing is pretty tough, but with his help, I was able to pick one.”

In 2011, Mallapre participated in a singing competition in the Philippines called Sinulog Idol, where he finished in second place. Following his participation in Sinulog Idol, Mallapre received invitations to perform at government and national events.

He eventually released local songs featured on Spotify. He was also a vocalist in an acoustic band performing regularly in one of the five-star hotels on the island of Cebu.

Mallapre said, “Music is like an antidote. It heals my soul whenever I’m in a bad state. It gives color to my life. I’m so grateful that I have a talent for singing. Performing is the only way that I can fully express myself.

“I mostly doubt myself, but through music, it helps me realize that I should believe in myself and do things that I think are impossible for me.”

Dr. Darren Duerden, a professor in the Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing Arts, congratulated all of the participants. “Thank you for pushing through those challenges. I hope it was ultimately an excellent learning experience, whether you placed or not. My thanks also go out to our awesome BYUH music faculty and accompanists for their assistance.”