City Cellist Wins Two Local Competitions


Sebastian Sauder

Sauder performs at a concerto competition

Tai Caputo, Reporter

Cellist Sebastian Sauder ’24 recently won two young musician competitions in Iowa: the Central Iowa Symphony Young Artist Competition, and the Pre-College Division of the Fort Dodge Area Symphony Young Artists Competition. 

Sauder said that he had competed a lot prior to this year, but had never before gotten 1st place. As a result of this, he developed a mindset that focused on performance aspects and musicality.

“It’s always stressful to play for judges, because you know that they’re analyzing everything,” Sauder said. “A big core philosophy of mine, especially regarding competition, is to see the judges as people, and as an audience, and I went in there and I told myself, ‘My goal is not to win by whatever metric of success, because that’s outside of my control. My goal is to connect with the judges and have them enjoy my performance.’ For me, I think most of the struggle was finding that confidence in myself and going in and playing confidently. I used to be very scared and I had a timid sound. But you have to tell yourself that ‘You’re able to do this,’ and believe that while you’re playing, or else you’re not going to sell [the audience] on anything.” 

Sauder said that instead of thinking about trying to win, he focused on a more relaxed mindset and made sure to be organized in his preparation.

“[Being well-prepared] is not just a physical thing, but a mental thing as well,” Sauder said. “So treating it like it’s not a competition, but it’s a performance, and it’s a connection with the audience–who happen to be judges. And using that mindset to make yourself more relaxed and to keep the focus where it needs to be, which is on storytelling and communication through music. Instead of, ‘I’m gonna win this prize.’”

Sauder performed the fourth movement of the Elgar Cello Concerto, one of the most famous concertos in classical repertoire. He said that he started learning the piece this past summer and revisited it in the winter. 

“When you’re getting ready for performances like this, it can go so many different ways,” Sauder said. “So what you need to do, is you need to have all of the technical stuff super nailed down. That takes a lot of drilling, a lot of organization, and a lot of dedication.”

Both the Central Iowa and Fort Dodge Area Competitions included string and wind instruments in the same category.

“There was a ton of variety in the instruments,” Sauder said. “There were just all sorts of people that I competed with, like a flautist, a double bassist, and a lot of violinists.” 

Sauder takes private lessons at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City and studies with Laura Shaw.

“Sebastian has been working incredibly hard, and is very invested in music,” Shaw said. “Sebastian is such a musical, dedicated cellist, and it’s so exciting to see the hard work pay off.”

Sauder plans to continue cello by applying to music school next year.

“Aside from college applications, I plan to continue pushing myself and playing for other people as much as I can, because that’s what I really like to do,” Sauder said.