Arts for Youth Spotlight: Luke Ponce
By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | June 29, 2016Luke Ponce's musical background began in church. His parents sang in the choir and his earliest experiences with music took place there. He began to play an instrument in Kindermusick, and then moved on to play the violin and piano.
"Vocally, I continued to sing at church but joining the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy in fifth grade had a profound impact on how seriously I took choral musicianship. I haven't looked back from it."
His mother, Valerie Ponce, taught Luke violin, but he dropped it to focus on piano with Jane Morison. "I wouldn't mind picking it back up again. A lot of my training in piano has translated over to the organ, which I enjoy playing as well. It's a very majestic instrument that I look forward to studying more in depth in college."
Luke says Morison is one of his biggest influences. "She's been my piano teacher, she's been my choir director, she's been an incredible mentor, an incomparable tutor, and most certainly my friend, and for these I am ever in her debt. I would also have to include almost every other young musician I have met through choir or Bristol Music Club auditions or through conferences and festivals.
"Not only have they inspired me by being incredible musicians in their own right, but through the opportunities I have had to make music with them, they've supported me in my own musical journey by sharing theirs. And finally, I would have to include my parents for fostering the interest in music our family has, and for surrounding me with it from my youngest days."
"One thing that interests me about music particularly is how its ultimate meaning can be both enigmatic and yet deeply engaging in nature. Think of, for example, the relation between poetry and prose. In prose, concepts are often expressed in more direct logical order of words and phrases than in the meandering thought process of poetry, and yet poetry can strike to the very heart of an emotion with peculiar power and clarity that prose often cannot.
"I think the leap between poetry and music is a similar one. The very concepts that words themselves cannot help but point to directly are touched upon poetically in music. If the poet can only describe how he tends to think about rain, the composer has the ability to define what exactly rain is. If I have a particular style as a performer; it is oriented toward forming a link between this idea of the composer and the audience before me.
"How the composer feels is represented, if imperfectly, by the notes on the page. How I feel about their music is, ideally, conveyed to the audience through my playing, and they in turn will feel a certain way about what they hear. Understanding this probably represents the way in which my style has changed the most since I first began studying piano. The technical is no longer my ultimate focus. I know that I need to be able to play the notes well and the dynamics and so on, but I don't feel like I've mastered a piece until I find a story in it and adjust my playing to let it shine through. It's a subtler relationship between the head and the heart and the hands than my younger self might have realized," Luke says.
Luke recently won Division I Bristol Music Club's Scholarship Audition. He played the Scherzo in B-flat minor, Op. 31 by Frédéric Chopin and the first movement of Beethoven's Sonata in C major, Op. 53.
"I can't say I went in expecting to win because I knew that the caliber of the competition is always very high. So when I did win, it was a surprise. It was, however, a very satisfying moment, the kind that really only comes from working toward something for a long time and having it pay off in a particular, visible way. Quite a few friends and fellow musicians that I look up to were there as well, and I must add that it was an honor simply to compete with them at all. The amount of musical talent that can be found in the young people of our region is truly incredible," he says.
His other honors include second place winner for Division II of the Bristol Music Club Auditions last year and multiple gold cup awards for solo piano performance from the National Federation of Music Clubs. Highlights from his choral studies include being selected as a national soloist as part of the OAKE National Honors Choir, singing under the direction of John Rutter at the Festival of the Aegean in Syros, Greece and singing with the Highlands Youth Ensemble at Carnegie Hall in New York City. "A definite highlight from my forays into composing would be having one of my original compositions performed at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina," he says.
This coming semester Luke begins studying at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, seeking a degree in sacred music.
This 18 year old's parents are Reyes and Valerie Ponce, who live in Abingdon, Virginia. He's been homeschooled since kindergarten but the past two years has been dual-enrolled at Virginia Highlands Community College. In addition to taking private piano lessons, he serves as a piano accompanist at Christ the King Catholic Church in Abingdon.