Grant Bender was pretty sure he wasn’t going to win.
The 16-year-old sophomore at Hanford High School in Richland hadn’t been playing flute all that long — about 1 1/2 years. And, “you walk in there and you see all these people who have been playing all their lives,” he told the Herald.
But he performed well during the Mid-Columbia Symphony Young Artist Competition earlier this year — so well that he swept his division and was named an overall winner, along with 10-year-old Nathan Hu.
Grant and Nathan will be featured soloists during the symphony’s Pomp & Romance concert March 21.
The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium at Richland High School, 930 Long Ave.
Grant, the son of Chuck and Erica Bender, said he loves performing, loves music. It’s a central focus of his life.
He played oboe for several years but decided to switch to flute after realizing he had a gift for it.
“The repertoire (of flute music) is very romantic and beautiful,” he said. “It gives me a feeling that’s incomparable to anything else when I play.”
Grant plays with the Mid-Columbia Youth Symphony, as well as several music groups at Hanford High.
Nathan also is a dedicated musician. He took honors at the Young Artist competition for his piano skills, and he also plays violin. He’s in the fourth grade at Lewis & Clark Elementary in Richland.
Nathan said he likes piano the best — it’s fun and a challenge. “There’s a bunch of pitches,” he said.
Nathan is the son of Dehong Hu and Lei Wang.
Since he’s only in the fourth grade, he’s not yet certain what he wants to be when he grows up. But he said he might want to play professionally with a symphony, and he also likes computer programming.
Nathan said he looks forward to performing this weekend.
Grant does too. After high school, he wants to go to a music conservatory, earning a doctorate degree in flute performance and orchestral conducting. His dream is to play with a major symphony, such as the New York Philharmonic, and perhaps teach college.
Nathan and Grant each spend several hours a week practicing. Grant said he feels there’s “always something out there to be working on” and more to learn.
As for the March 21 performance with the symphony, “I think it will be really fun, especially with such a high-level group,” he said.
“It will be so much fun to make music with them.”
Nicholas Wallin is the symphony’s music director. Along with the Young Artist performances, the March 21 concert will include Academic Festival Overture by Johannes Brahms and Symphony No. 7 by Antonín Dvorák.
Tickets range from $25 to $50; student tickets cost $15. They’re available through www.midcolumbiasymphony.org, by phone at 509-943-6602 or at the symphony office, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The office is at 1177 Jadwin Ave., Suite 103, Richland.