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Winners of 2016-17 Creative Reactions Contest Announced

May 1, 2017

May 2, 2017
INFO:  609-258-2800
CONTACT:  Dasha Koltunyuk,, 609-258-6024

Dedicated to the memory of Vera Sharpe Kohn

The Creative Reactions Contest is one of Princeton University Concert’s (“PUC”) programs aimed at engaging Princeton University students in classical music. In the third annual reiteration of this contest, 80 students attended a range of concerts throughout the first half of the 2016-17 season.  They were then asked to creatively respond and relay their experience of hearing live chamber music. As in past years, submissions were anonymous and could use any written form – including free verse, prose, poetry, narrative, and lyrics – but for the first time, this year’s contest also included a visual arts component.

We are excited to announce that after three rounds of judging, there are five winners this year: two first-prize winners, and three honorable mentions. Last year’s winners, David Ting ’17 and Anna Leader ’18, have again astounded the judges, both winning first place ($500). Isabella Bosetti ’18, Kirit Limperis ’19, and graduate student Xin Chua have each won an honorable mention ($100).

The community is invited to hear the winning submissions read by students in a pre-concert event on Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 7:00PM at Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall. Excerpts from the music to which the winners reacted will be interspersed throughout the readings. This event will be followed by PUC’s final concert of the year at 8PM with pianist Murray Perahia. For more information about both events, please visit

The winning reactions – four poems, one work of prose – each happened to react to a different concert on PUC’s series. Mr. Ting reacted to a performance by violinist Augustin Hadelich and guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas; Ms. Leader responded to mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s vocal recital; Ms. Bosetti was inspired by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Ms. Limperis wrote of her experience listening to percussionist Colin Currie; and Ms. Chua’s submission was the only prose among the winners, following Beethoven’s spirit while the Takács Quartet performed the Beethoven String Quartet cycle.

Marketing Manager Dasha Koltunyuk shared: “The Creative Reactions Contest is one of my favorite Princeton University Concerts initiatives. Many participants have shared that they find themselves listening to music with much more focus when asked to react to it creatively. Many others have never before attended a live classical music performance. Those two aspects are at the heart of our mission, which aims to bring every member of our community into as visceral an experience of music as possible. And each year, we are astounded by submissions that we receive--that both David and Anna have won first prize for a second consecutive year with two very different submissions is a testament to the range of all that a creative response to music can encompass.”

The entries were read anonymously in three rounds by twelve judges:

Round One:
Marna Seltzer, Director of Princeton University Concerts
Marue Walizer, Chair of the Princeton University Concerts Committee
Dasha Koltunyuk, Marketing and Outreach Manager for Princeton University Concerts
John Gibson ’19, Student Representative for Princeton University Concerts Committee

Round Two:
Karin Trainer, Former University Librarian
William Stowe, Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language at Wesleyan University
Marcia Snowden, Member of the Princeton University Concerts Committee
Kathleen Crown, Executive Director of the Princeton University Humanities Council
Dorothea von Moltke, Owner of Labyrinth Bookshop

Round Three:
Susan Wheeler, Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton
Leonard Barkan, Class of 1943 University Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton
Scott Burnham, William H. Scheide Professor of Music History at Princeton

David Ting ’17, “El barrio(lage) desconocido” inspired by violinist Augustin Hadelich and guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas, First Prize, $500

Anna Leader ’18, “love songs between balconies” inspired by mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, First Prize, $500

Isabella Bosetti ’18, “Translation/Aphasia” inspired by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Honorable Mention, $100

Kirit Limperis ’19, “With the Percussionist” inspired by percussionist Colin Currie, Honorable Mention, $100

Xin Chua GS, “The Future Age” inspired by the Takács Quartet, Honorable Mention, $100

David Ting is a senior from Springfield, Missouri.  He is a pre-med History of Science major with Certificates in the Humanities and European Cultural Studies. His recently completed thesis examines William Gaddis’s Agapē Agape, a monologic novel about the player piano in the style of Thomas Bernhard. A former pianist, David has loved classical music from a young age and remembers repeatedly listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s album “Soul of the Tango: The Music of Astor Piazzolla” as a toddler. Attending Augustin Hadelich and Pablo Sáinz Villegas’ program rekindled his excitement for the tango. He wanted to capture the nuances of the two independent but simultaneous voices of the violin/guitar duo, drawing on John Ashbery’s poem “Litany” for the structure of his submission. This is David's second consecutive first-prize at the Creative Reactions Contest.

Anna Leader is a junior in the Comparative Literature Department and the Program in Teacher Preparation. Like David, Anna was one of the two first-prize winners in last year’s Creative Reactions Contest, and was inspired to enter again after hearing mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton perform in October. Anna is an accomplished and prolific writer of poetry and prose, and she is a two-time winner of the national literary prize in Luxembourg (her home country) in the under-25 category. She also has a serious interest in literary translation, working from both French and German, and will spend the summer working in Paris. Last year, she wrote the program translations of German lyrics for baritone Matthias Goerne’s recital at Princeton University Concerts. Her Creative Reactions submission this year was inspired by Barton’s performance of Brahms’ love-song narrating a garden love scene. Anna found that the stereotypical subject became particularly evocative when sung in the context of a musical performance; she was struck by the parallel between the balcony love-song lyrics and her own experience listening to a love song from the Richardson Auditorium balcony. The poem is structured to reflect the shape of the Richardson Auditorium balconies and the singer (Anna describes her like a caryatid) on the stage. In her submission, Anna aimed to convey the beautiful and harmonious symmetry of Barton’s singing, her performance, and the lyrics and structure of the song itself.

Isabella Bosetti is a junior in the Computer Science Department. Having grown up with the classics -- practicing classical piano with her mother and blaring classic rock with her father -- Isabella often surrounds herself with music. She still plays the piano, has attended many concerts on and off campus, and often turns to music for its ability to lift her spirits and capture her moods. The Creative Reactions Contest was an opportunity for Isabella to engage with music as a more active listener; to make it her focus, rather than to relegate it to a supporting role. As a challenge to herself, she resolved to structure her submission with a rhyme scheme, departing from the free verse to which she defaults. Hearing the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir perform in the chapel was an experience that struck her as almost supernaturally beautiful. Both the setting of the chapel and the pureness of the voices that she heard contributed to this impression. In her submission, Isabella wanted to convey her sense of wonder at the artistry of the choir members.

Kirit Limperis is a sophomore in the Molecular Biology Department. Although Kirit used to play jazz and classical piano, she has not continued her music studies since beginning her studies at Princeton. Instead, she sometimes plays on her ukulele and listens to music as a source of writing inspiration; composing poetry, in particular, is a favorite pastime. Before the concert with percussionist Colin Currie to which she responded in her submission, Kirit had never before attended a percussion recital. Often spending her days in a visually-centered environment, she found that the experience brought fresh images to her mind which she wanted to include in her poem. Instead of directly describing the music, Kirit opted to present the reader with the very impressions that came to her mind as she was listening to Currie’s performance.

Xin Chua is a third-year PhD candidate in the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, researching the effects of atmospheric heating from pollution on tropical rainfall. Having taken piano lessons as a child, Xin now furthers her interest in music by playing the carillon and attending concerts on campus a few times a year. As a self-described interested amateur in music and creative writing, she found herself inspired by the electric ending of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 131 when she attended the Takács Quartet’s concert. Her submission was shaped not only by the quartet’s  performance, but also by the pre-concert lecture on Beethoven by Professor Emeritus Scott Burnham, and by Edward Dusinberre (Takács Quartet’s first violinist)’s book, Beethoven for a Later Age: Living with the String Quartets. Xin is the first graduate student to be named a winner of the Creative Reactions Contest.

The Creative Reactions Contest, now in its third year, is hosted by the Student Ambassadors of PUC, a small group of classical music-loving students whose mission is to increase student interest and participation in Princeton University Concerts programs.  The contest is funded by PUC.  Each year PUC presents a professional concert series featuring renowned classical musicians from all over the world. The Creative Reactions Contest seeks to further PUC’s mission by connecting students to the arts and celebrating classical music’s unique contributions.  The Creative Reactions Contest is dedicated to the memory of Vera Sharpe Kohn, a loyal member of the Princeton University Concerts Committee whose support and enthusiasm contributed to the health and well being of Princeton University Concerts.

All 5 of the winning entries will be available online at For more information or press inquiries, contact Dasha Koltunyuk at or at 609-258-6024.

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Dasha (Darya) Koltunyuk
Phone:  609-258-6024