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Teenage Marimba Player Gets Her 'Big Break'

Marcelina Suchocka, marimba, pushed past 14 other finalists in an online vote to win the first "Big Break" competition. courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Marcelina Suchocka, marimba, pushed past 14 other finalists in an online vote to win the first "Big Break" competition.

courtesy of the artist

Seventeen-year-old percussionist Marcelina Suchocka had better start practicing — because next spring, she's going to Carnegie Hall.

Yesterday, the Chicagoan was announced as the winner of "The Big Break," an online competition for young musicians hosted by Carnegie Hall and From The Top, NPR's classical radio program for kids. The grand prize: a spot on From The Top and a performance in one of Carnegie Hall's Family Series concerts next April.

The road to the top was steep. Last week, there were 15 finalists. These were chosen out of more than 400 applicants, who submitted audition videos via YouTube. The public elected Suchocka the winner during a two-week voting period.

For her winning performance, Suchocka played the third movement of Anders Koppel's Concerto For Marimba And Orchestra. She involves her whole body in her playing, giving the impression that she's dancing.

YouTube

In an environment where far more children start their musical lessons on piano or violin, it's refreshing to see not only a percussionist, but a female percussionist, win an important contest.

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The level of performance in the competition as a whole was so high that the organizers picked three runners-up, who will also appear in the Carnegie Hall concert and the From The Top broadcast. These winners are pianist Gideon Broshy, 16, from New York; cellist Brannon Cho, 16, from Short Hills, N.J.; and harpist Helen Gerhold, 14, from Lansdale, Pa.