14-Year-Old Chicago Musician Wins First Place In National Music Competition

14-Year-Old Chicago Musician Wins First Place and $10K In National Music Competition

14-year-old cellist Ifetayo Ali-Landing
14-year-old cellist Ifetayo Ali-Landing

It was a melodious moment. After thrilling the audience and judges with her performance of Lalo’s Concerto in D Minor, 14-year-old Hyde Park Suzuki Institute (HPSI) cellist Ifetayo Ali-Landing, a resident of Chicago’s South Side, snagged the coveted first place prize, including $10,000, in the Junior Division of the 20th Annual Sphinx Competition held recently in Detroit.
“Last year I came in second place, which was great, but what I really wanted was first place, and this year I got it,” said Ali-Landing.
The national Sphinx Competition provides young Black and Latino classical string instrument musicians the opportunity to compete under the guidance of an internationally-renowned panel of judges and perform with established professional musicians.
Ali-Landing became First Place Laureate after competing with hundreds of young musicians from across the country.
Her win includes performances with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, participation with the Sphinx Soloist Program Partners, solo appearances with major orchestras, and a radio interview on “From the Top,” a nationally-broadcast music program. Visit www.sphinxmusic.org.
According to her mother, Lucinda Ali-Landing, who is also HPSI founder and executive director, “Whether she took first, second or whatever, we knew she was a winner. That’s how I felt, and I cried, actually, when she walked out on stage. When they announced her as the winner I was just really happy that she was not disappointed, given the amount of work that she has put in.”
Ifetayo, who is home schooled, also plays piano and enjoys singing and dancing. Although classical music is her favorite, Ifetayo also plays music from other genres including hip hop.
She is the third student from Hyde Park Suzuki Institute (www.hydeparksuzuki.org) to receive top honors at the national competition within the last six years. The other two recipients are violinist Ade Williams, who won first place in 2011 and violist Mira Williams, who won second place in 2015.
HPSI, a 501(c)3 organization, is a Smart Growth recipient from Chicago Community Trust to provide lessons based on the Suzuki Method of instruction in violin, viola, cello, piano, for children ages three and up.  School fees are kept low to accommodate low-income student participation.
The senior Ali-Landing, a violin instructor, has been running the Institute for more than 16 years, sometimes renting out space from local churches. Currently housed in the Augustana Lutheran Church in Hyde Park, the school is in need of a permanent home.
“We believe in excellence and know that our students, no matter where they are from, can excel anywhere, regardless of the competition,” said Lucinda Ali-Landing.
“We continue to place students in major competitions year after year, and they are receiving top honors, which proves our formula works,” she said.
“Ifetayo is just one child from the Hyde Park Suzuki Institute who has been a part of this national competition.  We’ve sent three students there from this little itty, bitty school.  What other school can boast that they have had three Sphinx winners in the country? Well this little Southside program on the second floor of a church can.
“Ifetayo is not the first and she won’t be the last winner of Sphinx or other local and national competitions.  What we do is provide professional level training to students, one after another; so there are people coming behind her,” said Ali-Landing.
The school will hold a fundraising and friend-raising reception later in the spring.


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