Millikin musicians make solo debuts with MDSO

Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra concert to feature rising artists

Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra concert to feature rising artists

Millikin University student winners of the annual Concerto and Aria Competition will make their solo debuts with the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra (MDSO) on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Kirkland Fine Arts Center on Millikin's campus.

Every year, the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra hosts a Young Artist Concerto/Aria Competition. The experience aims to provide undergraduate students with an opportunity to be a guest soloist with a full symphony orchestra.


This year's soloists are students Trevor Stout, Leon Lewis-Nicol and Sarah Obert. Stout, a senior trumpet performance major, will perform on Alexander Arutunian's "Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra," while Lewis-Nicol will perform Edvard Grieg's "Piano Concerto in A Minor, Allegro molto moderato." Rising soprano Sarah Obert will perform Sullivan's "Poor Wandering One" from "The Pirates of Penzance."

The second half of the program will feature a performance of Edward Elgar's most beloved work "Enigma Variations." Written in 1899, the work is comprised of 14 variations with each variation being a musical sketch of one of Elgar's close acquaintances. Listeners have delighted in pairing friends with sketches and have been perplexed by Elgar's enduring unresolved question: who, or what, is "The Enigma?"

"It is particularly gratifying for me to witness students embracing this challenge and explore the meaning of what it means to be a soloist," said Dr. Sergey Bogza, director of the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra. "Aside from exemplary musicianship, the students are asked to prepare professional promotional material – an experience important to have at an early stage of one's career."

Young Artists


Trevor Stout, Trumpet

Trevor Stout is a senior trumpet performance major from Decatur, Ill. A graduate of Eisenhower High School, Stout is involved in many ensembles at Millikin, including Jazz Band, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Combo and the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra. He is an active performer in the central Illinois area, most notably as a pit musician for The Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan, Ill. Additionally, Stout is a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, in which he served as Fraternity Education Officer. Stout is a trumpet student of Randall Reyman, professor of music at Millikin.

Leon Lewis-Nicol, Piano

A native of Sierra Leone, Leon Lewis-Nicol studies piano with Dr. Silvan Negrutiu, assistant professor of piano and coordinator of keyboard studies at Millikin, where he is pursuing a commercial music degree. Prior to enrolling at Millikin in Aug. 2017, he attended Parkland College for one year and took piano lessons with Professor Vincent Trauth, following his pre-college education in Sierra Leone and Ghana as a self-taught musician. 

Lewis-Nicol, a junior, is an aspiring commercial composer and professional pianist, and has dreams of returning to Sierra Leone to establish a community music school upon completing his musical training in the United States.  

Sarah Obert, Soprano

Sarah Obert made her Millikin University mainstage debut as Christine Daae in "The Phantom of the Opera." Following this triumphant success, she took on the role of Mother Superior in "Sister Act." Her additional credits include: Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde" (Limelight Theatre Productions), Janet van de Graaf in "The Drowsy Chaperone" (Limelight Theatre Productions), and the title role in "Mary Poppins" (Starlight Theatre).

Obert was recently awarded second place in the 2018 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Central Region Competition – Lower Classical Women's Division, and qualifies to advance to nationals this June. Obert, of Oswego, Ill., is currently a sophomore pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre studying with Dr. Justin John Moniz, coordinator of vocal studies at Millikin.

Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra

The Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra is an ensemble comprised of faculty, hired professionals, and is open to students who successfully audition for the Millikin University School of Music. The MDSO performs the annual Labor Day Pops concert, five Masterworks concerts, advent services, and hosts high-profile guest artists and the Concerto/Aria Competition.

Single ticket prices for the concert are $10, $15 and $20, and children's tickets are $10. Tickets are available through the Kirkland Fine Arts Center Ticket Office by phone at 217.424.6318 or online at Kirkland Ticket Office hours are Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. A $2.50 fee will be charged for credit card purchases. This is a per transaction fee, not per ticket, and applies to online and Ticket Office orders.

Concerts of the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.