SMU violinist Eleanor Dunbar wins first prize at international competition

Student violinist Eleanor Dunbar has won the Eisemann International Young Artists String Competition.

Eleanor Dunbar

DALLAS (SMU) --- Eleanor Dunbar, a senior at SMU Meadows School of the Arts pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance, won first prize in the Ann & Charles Eisemann International Young Artists String Competition held Jan. 16 at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Left to right: Judge Paul Kantor (Rice University), third place winner Ariana Nelson (Juilliard), first place winner Eleanor Dunbar (SMU), second place winner Michael Zyzak (TCU), Judge Jennifer Culp (San Francisco Conservatory of Music), Maestro Clay Couturiaux.
(Left to right) Judge Paul Kantor (Rice University), third place winner Ariana Nelson (Juilliard), first place winner Eleanor Dunbar (SMU), second place winner Michael Zyzak (TCU), Judge Jennifer Culp (San Francisco Conservatory of Music), and Maestro Clay Couturiaux.

The prize includes a cash award of $5,000 and a performance with the Richardson Symphony Orchestra. Dunbar will play the Sibelius Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 at the Richardson concert, which takes place March 5.

Dunbar won the top prize in the Eisemann competition with a performance of the Shostakovich Concerto #1 in A minor. She is a student of Emanuel Borok, international concert violinist and Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at the Meadows School.

Judges for the 2016 competition were Paul Kantor, professor of violin at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and Jennifer Culp, professor of violoncello, string and piano chamber music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The 19-year-old Dunbar has already begun to establish herself as a young artist. She grew up in Southern California, where she started her musical education at the age of three.  She studied with Gail Gerding Mellert before moving to Dallas. At 14, she received the grand prize at the Los Angeles Spotlight Awards in California. At 16, she won the L.A. Philharmonic Association Young Artists Competition, for which she was awarded a performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Also at 16, she was accepted as a Young Artists Guild member and gave various solo recitals around California.

Dunbar had her first solo debut at age 11, performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Asia America Youth Orchestra under Maestro David Benoit. Other solo performances included the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Asia America Symphony, also conducted by Maestro David Benoit, and the Bruch Violin Concerto with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under Maestro Thomas Wilkins. At 17, she won the general concerto competition at SMU, consisting of both undergraduate and graduate students of all ages, and performed the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Paul Phillips. Also at 17, she placed third in the Lynn Harrell Concerto Competition in Dallas.  

A recipient of the prestigious Presser Undergraduate Scholar Award, Dunbar has had the opportunity to take lessons from and collaborate with many artists such as Shmuel Ashkenasi, Andres Diaz, Ivry Gitlis, Paul Kantor, Ida Kavafian, Gustav Rivinius, Sylvia Rosenberg, Abram Shtern and Michael Tree. 

An avid chamber musician, Dunbar is also a founding member of the Cézanne Quartet, named the inaugural Peak Fellowship Ensemble-in-Residence at SMU Meadows from August 2015 through May 2017. The group enjoys an active performing career in North Texas; appearances in 2015 included the Bridge the Gap Chamber Series, the Meadows Virtuosi Players, the Texas Christian University CelloFest, the Open Classical Artist Series and Ensemble 75.

Dunbar plays on an 1896 Joseph Anthony Chanot made in London.

The Ann & Charles Eisemann International Young Artists Competition, formerly the Lennox Competition, is sponsored by the Richardson Symphony Orchestra and receives major funding through a generous gift from Ann and Charles Eisemann. It is open to music students aged 13 to 23. The purpose of the competition is to recognize talented young musicians and to give the young artists the opportunity to perform with the Richardson Symphony.

This is the second time in recent years that a Meadows student has won the award; cellist Santiago Cañón-Valencia received it as a graduate student in 2014.

The March 5 concert with the Richardson Symphony takes place at 8 p.m. at the Charles W. Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. Tickets are $17-$87 and may be purchased by calling the Eisemann Center ticket office at 972-744-4650.

The next concert with the Cézanne Quartet will be held Saturday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Caruth Auditorium, located in the Owen Arts Center, 6101 Bishop Blvd. on the SMU campus. Admission is free. For more information, call the Meadows ticket office at 214-768-2787.