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The Kennedy Center

Winners of the VSA International Young Soloists Competition

2006 Award Recipients

Nichola Kouzes, vocalist

Picture of Nichola Kouzes

Fourteen-year-old Nichola Kouzes of Colleyville, Texas has developed a seasoned stage presence while singing Country, Pop, R&B, and 50's music. She has performed at numerous venues including the Grapevine Opry, Six Flags over Texas, and regularly on Radio Disney. In 2005, Ms. Kouzes was the opening act for country music artist, Neal McCoy. She has won several local, state and regional talent competitions and recently released her first music video. Ms. Kouzes has received accolades from the Dallas Morning News, Texas Monthly Magazine, and CBS News. While maintaining a busy life of school, performing, and composing music, she still finds time to entertain at children's hospitals and senior citizen events.

Brian Sanders, cellist

Picture of Brian Sanders

Born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, twenty-two-year-old Brian Sanders is currently a senior at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York majoring in cello performance and studying with Steven Doane. Mr. Sanders has performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and has been a recipient of the Earl and Eugenia Quirk Scholarship from VSA Arts of Wisconsin for the past three years. Currently, he performs as one of the principal cellists for the Eastman Philharmonia. An active chamber musician, he also composes music for a rock/heavy metal cello trio. After graduation, Mr. Sanders plans to continue his music education in graduate school.

Jacquelyn Weitz, pianist

Picture of Jacquelyn Weitz

Jacquelyn Weitz is a 22-year-old piano performance major at Montana State University in Billings. She has been the recipient of many honors and awards in national and international piano competitions. Ms. Weitz won second place and the Outstanding Musician award at the Bartok-Kabalevsky-Prokofiev International Competition held in Radford, Virginia. and received an Honorable Mention in the Pinault International Competition in New York City where she was one of five finalists in the professional division. In 2005, she won third place in the Liszt International Piano Competition in Los Angeles and was a finalist and prizewinner at the Jefferson Symphony Competition in Colorado.

Most recently, Ms. Weitz won first place at the MTNA Northwest Division Competition in Portland, Oregon. She has performed twice as a soloist with the Billings Symphony, also appearing with the Bozeman and Helena symphonies, the Missoula Symphony Orchestra, the Aurora Symphony in Colorado, and the Fort Dodge Symphony in Iowa.

Giovanna Maira, vocalist

Picture of Giovanna Maira

Giovanna Maira is a 19-year-old vocalist from Osasco, Sao Paulo, Brazil. She is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in music at the Universidade de São Paulo and attended the Conservatório Musical Villa-Lobos, a traditional music school in her home town. Ms. Maira has made several appearances on Brazilian television including the popular "Domingo Legal", "Superpop" and "Domingão do Fastão". She was a featured soloist at the Teatro Municipal, a prominent performance venue in Brazil and performed in a touring production of An Evening with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Ms. Maira has performed on several radio programs including "Francisco Rossi e Você" and her original compositions have received accolades at the Festival Estudantil de Osasco. Ms. Maira also works with Instituto Paradigma, an advocacy group that works toward the inclusion of people with visual disabilities in society.