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The Kennedy Center

Winners of the VSA International Young Soloists Competition

2007 VSA International Young Soloists Award Recipients

Melody Gardot, vocalist

Picture of Melody Gardot

Melody Gardot is a 23-year-old award-winning singer/songwriter and guitarist whose multifaceted musical talent has drawn comparisons to Cole Porter, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone. Her debut album, Worrisome Heart, is an 11-track collection of original songs co-produced by Gardot and Grammy Award-winning producer Glenn Barratt. Gardot has performed at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, and other venues.

Gardot, who at 19 sustained a traumatic brain injury, is the recipient of the People's Choice Award from the Philadelphia City Paper. She has also performed with Livingston Taylor, Loudon Wainwright III, Brandi Carlile, Susan Tedeschi, and others.

Niv Ashkenazi, violinist

Photo of Niv Ashkenazi

Niv Ashkenazi, 17, of Los Angeles, is a junior at Highland Hall Waldorf School and the Colburn School of Performing Arts. He has studied violin since the age of six and currently studies with Amy Hershberger. A member of the American Youth Symphony conducted by Alexander Treger, concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ashkenazi has himself acted as concertmaster of the California State University, Northridge, Youth Philharmonic and the Colburn Chamber Orchestra, and was a member of the Colburn Honors Quartet. Last summer Ashkenazi, who has spina bifida, attended ENCORE School for Strings in Hudson, Ohio.

Yew Choong Cheong, pianist

Photo of Yew Choong Cheong

Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Yew Choong Cheong will receive his Ph.D. from West Virginia University (WVU) in 2008. Cheong, 28, has earned honors from programs including the Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Artist Piano Competition in West Virginia (2002) and was a selected soloist in WVU's annual Young Artists Auditions (2003). He has participated in the International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Mannes College of Music (2004) and the Forum Internacional de Musica Barcelona Ciutat in Barcelona (2005).

As a graduate assistant, Cheong, who is hard of hearing, teaches applied piano and works with WVU's piano technician in maintaining the university's piano inventory.

Yew Choong Cheong is a member of the Association of Adult Musician with Hearing Loss.

Makabara, vocal trio

Photo of Makabara

Makabara, a trio of students from the Jan Deyl Conservatory in Prague, Czech Republic, was founded in 2004 by Marie Kozakova, an instructor at the school. Vocalists Marie Vostatková, Katerina Ulicná, and Barbora Janová, who have low vision, interpret traditional Czech music from original sources, Czech folk music, and compositions by contemporary Czech composers. Makabar, who sing both a cappella and with piano accompaniment, perform regularly at the Prague Municipal Library and elsewhere, including concerts in conjunction with the Olga Havlova Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing opportunities to people with disabilities. The trio's most important performance to date has been a concert in the chapel of St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle, sponsored by the Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk.