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The Kennedy Center

Winners of the VSA International Young Soloists Competition

2011 Award Recipients

Mandy Harvey

Picture of Mandy Harvey. Jazz vocalist Mandy Harvey discovered her passion for music at the age of four. By her teenage years, her vocal talents had blossomed and she won numerous awards, including "Top Female Vocalist" at her high school. Upon graduation in 2006, Mandy headed to Colorado State University to pursue a degree in music education. During her first semester, Mandy realized she had trouble hearing recordings, and six months later, her hearing loss became near-total. Mandy then left school and returned home to take American Sign Language classes and pursue Elementary Education at a local community college. A chance encounter with her former voice teacher led Mandy to revive her music passion and begin performing. Since 2008 Mandy has been a regular performer at Jay's Bistro in Fort Collins, Colorado, and has been a featured performer at Fort Collins Jazz Experience and New West Fest. Mandy works with the Hearing Loss Association of America to advocate for education about hearing loss. Mandy released her debut CD, Smile, in 2009 to rave reviews. She recently released her follow-up album, After You've Gone.

James Schlender

Picture of James Schlender. A native of Bozeman, Montana, 17 year-old violinist and fiddler James Schlender discovered his passion for music thanks to doctor'schlenders orders. Born with aortic stenosis (congenital heart disease), James was advised against competing in strenuous competitive sports as a youth. He instead put his energy into music and began playing the fiddle at age nine. By age 13, he won two National Old Time Fiddle Championships. Since then he has won many regional and state fiddle contests and placed among the Top Ten Fiddlers each time he has entered the prestigious Grand Master Fiddle Championship in Nashville, TN. With fiddling as his musical foundation, James began to explore classical and jazz styles of music at age 14 and found great success and zeal for those genres as well. Now a senior in high school, he is concertmaster of Bozeman High's top orchestras, and was concertmaster of the Montana All-State Orchestra. He performs regionally with a swing-style band called the String Jumpers and has been awarded a scholarship for his jazz and improvisation skills from Jazz Montana. James plans to study music in college and pursue a career in jazz.

Ráchel Skleničková

Picture of Ráchel Skleničková. Hailing from Chodov, Czech Republic, pianist Ráchel Skleničková 's musical journey includes many accolades. The 18-year-old studies at the Jan Deyl Conservatory and Secondary School for the Visually Impaired in Prague, Czech Republic. She has received prizes in various piano competitions, including third prize at the Piano Competition of Conservatoires, Pardubice 2010. She was chosen to perform a concert at the Chopin Festival in Warsaw, Poland in October 2011. Sklenicková, who is blind, has performed for the First Lady of the Czech Republic, Mrs. Livia Klausová; in the Czech Senát (Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic); and for delegates from countries across the European Union. Rachel was recently profiled in a documentary film for Czech television.