High 5: 14-Year-Old Donates Restored Violins To Music Class

By Grant Weyman, KSL TV
February 5, 2020 at 1:26 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The music students at Mountain View Elementary School got a big surprise recently — all thanks to a talented high schooler. Zeke Sokoloff is a violin virtuoso. He’s only been playing for about four years, but he’s already performed with the Utah Symphony and has a long music career ahead of him.

Zeke is a student with the Gifted Music School. Through one of its outreach programs, he saw a need at Mountain View Elementary’s music program.“There wasn’t enough violins for everybody,” he said. “Some people had to share.”

Bianka Chavez, a Mountain View student, said sharing the violins caused issues with learning how to play.

“You have to put in multiple hours on the weekends as well, so there’s not always enough for everybody to take home a violin and try to get better on their own,” she said. “So that’s hard.” read more


Mellon Duo takes 2nd Prize in the ENKOR International Music Competition

The Mellen Duo is comprised of Megan Tandar (14) on piano and Ellen Hayashi (16) on violin, students in The Gifted Music School Conservatory in Salt Lake City, Utah. The duo began working together in the spring of 2019, and performed with the Utah Symphony in their Salute to Youth concert in September, 2019. read more


Music education isn’t a priority in the U.S. How this Utah school is doing its part to fix that

By Lottie Elizabeth Jonson 

Salt Lake City, — There are a lot of things Eugene Watanabe could’ve talked about.

He could’ve talked about how he debuted with the Utah Symphony when he was 9 years old. He was a fourth-grader then, and he performed a Vivaldi violin concerto. But that was 40 years ago, and he shrugged it off with a laugh.

“That’s not important,” he said quietly. “Me playing then is insignificant.” read more.


Two Holladay Teen Prodigies To Play Free Concert At Holladay City Hall

By Sona Schmidt-Harris

June 4, 2019 –Two Holladay teens, Caroline Durham and Ezekiel Sokoloff, won their respective string divisions at the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Competition in Spokane, Washington... read more. 


Quartet Made of Utah Highschoolers is Winning National Awards

By Mary Richards
Salt Lake City, May 29, 2019—A group of high schoolers has formed a quartet in Utah is winning national awards for their classical music.It’s a level of talent that is turning a lot of heads... read more.


Gifted Music School Quartet to Appear on NPR’s FROM THE TOP​  - with Guest Host Peter Dugan Episode airs on Classical 89, April 27 at 11AM

Salt Lake City, April 17, 2019 –The Bear Quartet of ​Gifted Music School​ in Salt Lake City, Utah will appear on an upcoming episode of From the Top, the hit NPR radio program featuring America’s best young classical musicians. The show will air on ​Classical 89, Saturday April 27 at 11 AM ​and by podcast at fromthetop.org beginning ​April 22​. The broadcast features performances and interviews with outstanding young musicians and Guest Host Peter Dugan. The show was taped at the ​Hollywood Scoring Studio in Los Angeles on February 24​, as part of ​a three-day From the Top residency​, comprised of creative music making, career development, and community engagement designed to enrich both personal and artistic growth for thirteen young musicians from throughout the country. 

Double-Win! Two Utah Students Win National MTNA Music Competition

Salt Lake City, March 18, 2019 – Gifted Music School students Ezekiel Sokoloff, 13, and Caroline Durham, 17, won the Junior and Senior String Performance divisions respectively at the National MTNA Music Competition in Spokane, Washington this past weekend. Both are violin students of GMS Co-Founder Eugene Watanabe, himself a two-time national winner in this prestigious competition.

The MTNA Competition is possibly the most competitive and distinguished student music competition in the USA.Out of hundreds of applicants, only 7 students in each division advance to the final round. Each student is required to perform 20-30 minutes of solo music at each of three competition rounds (local, regional, and national). "Our students delivered," said Eugene Watanabe, Artistic Director and Co-founder of Gifted Music School. "It's great to have one student win, and unbelievable to have two students win– this is a big win for GMS!" Gifted Music School has had six GMS student or faculty wins since 1985, but have never won two divisions in the same year before.

Ezekiel, a resident of Holladay, UT, performed Paganini’s Violin Concerto in D Major , considered one of the hardest pieces ever written for violin. Zeke says, “ To get ready for a competition, I usually practice violin 6-7 hours a day,” and he knows all the other competitors have worked this hard, too. “I think that at the national level, all the kids who compete are well prepared and it just comes down to how relaxed and artistic you are when you perform for the judges. All of the kids work really hard and have an equal chance to win. I’m honored to have taken first!

Caroline, also a Holladay resident, says, “ Two years ago, I wasn't even winning state competitions. I felt like everyone else was better than I was. I think you always feel like so many other players are better than you are (I still do), but if you work hard and really decide to do something, anything is possible.”

Ezekiel and Caroline will both play at Gifted Music School’s Scholarship Gala on April 27, along with guest artist Laurie Smukler of The Juilliard School. Information on this, all upcoming concerts, and how to register as a GMS student is available at www.giftedmusicschool.org .


Project GRIT: Shaping Mountain View Elementary Students through Music - “What a Wonderful World” Benefit Concert

Salt Lake City,  March 1, 2019 – JOIN US for "What a Wonderful World," Project GRIT Benefit Concert on March 14, 2019, 7pm, at Mountain View Elementary School (1380 Navajo St., SLC). Hear music played by the stars of Project GRIT as they play alongside the Gifted Music School Conservatory Orchestra. Music, food, and fun! Free concert, donations graciously accepted and benefit GRIT students. More information can be found here.



Salt Lake City, October 19, 2018 –Aryanna Holmes, age 15 of North Salt Lake, and Taya Tippetts of Mapleton, age 16 – play the violin and have been selected as winners in the ensemble category for the Utah Valley Young Artists Competition. They will be performing the first movement of Tabula Rasa by Arvo Pärt with the Utah Valley Symphony with their Young Artists program. The program will take place at The Covey Arts Center in Provo, on October 25th and 26th at 7:30 pm.

Tickets can be purchased at: https://www.tix6.centerstageticketing.com/sites/coveycenter/event-details.php?e=1380


Salt Lake City, October 4, 2018 – Gifted Music School students will volunteer their musical talents as they perform for ‘Bowser’ and his many canine and feline friends at the Utah Animal Adoption Center (UAAC) located at 1955 N Redwood Rd., Salt Lake City, UT on Wednesday, October 10th from 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm. (Photo opportunities available. 

UAAC believes in providing their animals with unique enrichment – and the Gifted Music School students intend to provide exactly that! Classical music will be performed live for the animals, including Allemande and Courante from Suite 1 and Prelude, Allemande and Courante from Suite 1 of the Bach cello suites, and a movement from Sammartini’s Sonata in G Major. Flute will play Concerto in E minor by Saverio Mercadante, 1st movement

GMS student musicians include: Portia Quigley, cello, age 11; Abby Smith,  viola, age 16; Lianna Fiore, flute, age 17; Yvonne Kim, cello, age 14

Here’s information on how to register as a student at Gifted Music School – and, how to adopt at an animal at Utah Animal Adoption Center. Join us for live music set against the Jordan River Parkway Trail.


Salt Lake City, UT 9/20/18 - Gifted Music School is proud to announce the 2018-19 Starling Scholars:

Rachel Call, 16 years of age; Makenzie Hart, 15 years of age; Ellen Hayashi, 15 years of age; Ezekiel Sokoloff, 13 years of age

Gifted Music School is honored to be the recipient of a grant from the prestigious Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation. This national foundation devotes its efforts and resources to the support of classical violin education at the highest level and has selected to fund the studio of Mr. Eugene Watanabe at Gifted Music School. The Starling Foundation also supports the violin programs at Juilliard, Curtis Institute of Music, Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, and other top-tier violin programs throughout the country.

Starling Scholarships are awarded to students who show potential to become successful concert violinists at an international level. They are selected through a competitive application process and will receive tuition assistance toward their private violin lessons.



  • May 19, 2017 - Former GMS Conservatory student David Horton (piano) performs with the Boston Pops with Keith Lockhart, conductor.
  • April 15, 2017 - Utah's 2017 Best of State small youth ensemble winner is the GMS Conservatory's "Olympus Quartet," consisting of Hannah Brown, Rachel Call (violin), Ellen Hayashi (violin), and Madison Marshall. Congrats to them for winning this award. They competed in the well-known Fischoff Chamber Competition this year.
  • April 6, 2017 - GMS Conservatory student violinist Ellen Hayashi, finalist in the R.L. Halversen Young Artist Concert competition. 
  • March 30, 2017 - Several GMS students were among the winners in the 2017 Utah Symphony Salute to Youth competition, including:
    • McCall Andersen, violin
    • Rachel Call, violin
    • Madison Marshall, viola
    • Abby Smith, violin
    • Ezekiel Sokoloff, violin
    • Megan Tandar, piano
    • The Olympus Quartet:  Hannah Brown, Rachel Call, Ellen Hayashi, Madison Marshall (coached by GMS faculty Eugene Watanbe and Rainer Eudeikis)
    • Sixteen Strings: Ashlin Moore, Breighton Papac, Stella Wadsworth, Ellie Wirthlin (coached by GMS faculty Brittany Gardner)
    • Honorable Mentions:  Ellen Hayashi (violin), Dimitrios Mattas (bass), Mackie Moore (viola), Vaughan Williams Piano Quintet: Sanne Christensen (piano), McCall Andersen (violin), Mackie Moore (viola), Benson Marshall, Dimitri Mattas (bass) (Coached by GMS faculty Dr. Koji Attwood); Schumann Piano Quintet: Caroline Maude Durham, Cameron Jeppson, Bella Maher, Kim Lewin, (Coached by GMS faculty Asheley Watabe)
  • February 18, 2017 - Utah Music Teacher’s Association UMTA Concerto Competition winners included:  McCall Andersen (violin) and Abby Smith (violin). 
  • February 6, 2017 - Ellen Hayashi (violin), named a winner in the Utah Philharmonic Thirteenth Annual Concerto Competition. Dimitri Mattas (bass) was accepted into the National Youth Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
  • February 4, 2017 - GMS Conservatory student MacKenzie Hart (violin), performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major Op.61, 1st movement, was a winner in the 2017 Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra Aspiring Musicians Competition.
  • January 7-8, 2017 - GMS Conservatory students and violinists, McCall Andersen (senior division) and Ellen Hayashi (junior division), competed as division finalists of the Southwest Region in the MTNA Strings Competition in Honolulu, Hawaii. Both Ellen & McCall won 2nd place. The three-tiered MTNA competitions begin at the state level. 
  • January 7, 2017 - Conservatory violinist Rachel Call competed in the final round of live auditions in the Coeur d'Alene Symphony Young Artists Competition at Whitworth University. Rachel placed 3rd. Ages 14-18. Rachel was the youngest! Winners of the Coeur d'Alene Symphony Young Artist competition have the opportunity to perform as soloist with the Coeur d’Alene Symphony. 


  • December 18, 2016 - GMS Conservatory student violinist Hannah Kwong is a winner of the American Protege Piano and String Competition. She is performing on Sunday, December 18, 2016 in the Winners Recital at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
  • October 19-20, 2016 - Utah Valley Symphony Young Artist Competition. GMS Conservatory student violinist Rachel Call auditioned with the Utah Valley Symphony Young Artist Competition and was selected to play.
  • October 15, 2016 - Viola Days. The Utah Viola Society and USU brought Patricia McCarty, director of Meadowmount to Utah for Viola Days. GMS Conservatory student violist Mackie Moore played Praeludium and Allegro, Kreisler. GMS Conservatory student violist Madison Marshall attended the masterclass event and performed to honor her teacher, Dr. Dalton. 
  • September 27, 2106 - Salute to Youth Soloists to perform with the Utah Symphony. Our students achieved wonderful results at this year's Utah Symphony Salute to Youth auditions and five GSM Conservatory students were selected to play with the Utah Symphony, including:  Megan Tandar, Kana Yoshigi (piano), Bree Fotheringham, Ellen Hayashi (violin) MacKenzie Hart, and Karen Ferry (violin). While these 5 were selected to perform with the Utah Symphony, here is a full list of the GMS Conservatory who were among the winners in the competition: 
    • Senior Division: Erika Hubbard (violin)
    • Junior: Rachel Call (violin) & Karen Ferry (violin)
    • Elementary: Ellen Hayashi (violin)
    • Violin Duo, Ellen Hayashi & Makenzie Hart 
    • Piano Quartet: Rachel Call, Madison Marshall, Hannah Brown & Kana Yoshigi
    • Honorable Mentions: McCall Andersen (violin), Caroline Durham (violin), Makenzie Hart (violin), Ella Holden (violin), Abby Smith (violin), Madison Marshall (viola), SoonYoung Kwon (violin), Benson Marshall (cello).
  • May 12, 2016 - News article:  Gifted Music School to perform with Bill McGlaughlin.



  • October 1, 2014 - The Utah Symphony's Salute to Youth concert included performances by GMS Conservatory students, Rebecca Epperson (viola), and Maggie Ivory (violin), Karen Ferry (violin), Sanne Christensen (piano), and Shenae Anderson (violin)Salute to Youth musicians amaze audience in Abravanel Hall