Celebrating Musical Excellence: Holy Names Music Center’s Talent Grant Competition

Music has the power to touch our souls, inspire our minds, and ignite our passion. It is a universal language that transcends boundaries and connects people from all walks of life. At Holy Names Music Center, we recognize the importance of nurturing and supporting young musicians in their pursuit of excellence. That is why we are thrilled to continue our annual tradition of hosting the Talent Grant Competition, an event that celebrates outstanding musical competence, artistic sensibility, and promise.

The Talent Grant, valued at $500, is awarded to a maximum of four students across different categories. This generous grant is specifically dedicated to supporting the recipients’ musical instruction at Holy Names Music Center with one of our esteemed instructors. It serves as a stepping stone for these talented individuals to further develop their skills and pursue their musical aspirations.

The competition spans four categories: piano, strings, voice, and “other” instruments, which encompass woodwinds, brass, percussion, harp, and guitar. The adjudicator has the responsibility of carefully evaluating each participant’s performance, taking into account various elements of musicianship. It is a comprehensive assessment that goes beyond technical proficiency, encompassing aspects like interpretation, expression, tempo, and even audition etiquette and poise. HNMC’s Talent Grant Competition is unique in that the student’s talent and potential are both considered – making it possible for even a beginning student who shows great promise to win the grant.

This year Holy Names Music Center’s Talent Grant Adjudication took place on Friday, June 2nd, 2023. Twenty three students out of approximately 300 were recommended by their instructors, and 20 of them had the honor of performing for our esteemed adjudicator, Verne Windham. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Windham, who recently retired from Spokane Public Radio and has made significant contributions to the music community as a choir director and conductor.

Verne Windham, Adjudicator

The participants showcased their remarkable talents and Adjudicator, Verne Windham, provided valuable feedback and notes to each participant, ensuring that they continue to grow and refine their skills. It is through these such experiences that students gain invaluable insights and guidance, shaping their musical journeys and propelling them towards success.

Now, it is with great pleasure that we announce the recipients of the 2023-2024 HNMC Talent Grant. These exceptional individuals have demonstrated extraordinary musical abilities, artistic sensibility, and immense promise. They are the embodiment of dedication, hard work, and passion for music.

Please join us in congratulating the winners of the $500 grant:

Gabriella Bambino, piano – student of Mina Somekawa
Jade Frias, piano – student of Linda Siverts
Jordan Gortner, voice – student of Nancy Klingman
Henry Ramey, violin – student of Mariana Dimitrova

We would also like to acknowledge the Honorable Mentions, who have shown tremendous potential and dedication. These students will receive a $100 grant as a recognition of their remarkable talent and commitment.


Honorable Mention Winners receiving a $100 grant:

Noah Eddy, violin – student of Garnik Goukasian
Matthew Smith, cello – student of Sr. Karen Conlin
Max Sweeney, viola – student of Claire Keeble
Bryce Williams, piano – student of Linda Siverts

Each participant in this year’s competition deserves high commendation. Holy Names Music Center is proud to have been a part of their musical journeys. The Talent Grant Competition not only provides financial support but also serves as a catalyst for personal growth and development. We are confident that these talented individuals, along with their devoted teachers, will continue to achieve remarkable milestones and contribute to the world of music. We are excited to witness your continued progress and wish you all success in your musical endeavors!

2023-2024 Talent Grant Winners:

Gabriella Bambino, piano. Winner of a $500 grant. Gabriella loves music. Her love and appreciation for music undoubtedly was influenced by her grandfather “Poppy Ron”. He was a professional musician and recording artist and would frequently play guitar and sing with her since she was 2 years old. She has taken 36 months of Piano instruction. She loves to perform and has been performing for audiences since she was 3 years old through dance and competitive figure skating. Gabriella plays piano for her school mass and is also a member of her school choir. If you ask her what she loves most she will tell you without hesitation it is her Dog Anaheim, but aside from family and friends and her dog she loves music.

Jade Frias, piano. Winner of a $500 grantJade is 16 years old, a junior high school at Deer Park Homelink, and finishing her 1st year at Spokane Falls Community College through the Running Start program. Playing the piano and singing has always been part of her life. Her way of relaxing is sight reading various types of music found online. She also enjoys providing music at church and other events.

Jordan Gortner, voice. Winner of a $500 grant. Jordan recently won an Emerging Artist Award from Rotary. Jordan says: “I adore music. From the percussive beat of crickets and traffic in the night time, to the ocean of conversation in school, to the energizing beat and joy of an organized musical group performing. I listen, and I love it all. Some people say “you are not what you do.” And for the most part I agree, except when it comes to music. Music is not just what I do, it is at the core of me: the excited rhythm of my heart, the soothing thrum of my blood, and the joyous exaltation of sound that we call singing. So how, then, could I ignore the trumpet heralding the open gates to the world of music? The simplest answer is that I could not. I could not bear it. I burst into this realm of music and will continue whirling about within it forever.”

Henry Ramey, violin. Winner of a $500 grant. Henry is a musician and a runner and has played the violin for 4 years.

Noah Eddy, violin. Honorable Mention winner of a $100 grant. Noah is 17 and has been taking violin lessons for 9 years.

Matthew Smith, cello. Honorable Mention winner of a $100 grant. Matthew says he is excited for another year of great music with an AMAZING cello teacher, Sister Karen!
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

Max Sweeney, viola. Honorable Mention winner of a $100 grant. Max is going to be a junior at Ferris High. He’s been playing the viola since I was 10. He also plays with the Spokane Youth Symphony. He plans to study music in college.

Bryce Williams, piano. Honorable Mention winner of a $100 grant. Bryce started taking piano lessons when he was 9 years old and has made piano part of his everyday life. He also enjoys playing basketball, baseball, and building wrist watches.

Celebrate with us!

Holy Names Music Center officially opened as Spokane’s Community Music School in 1982, built on the contributions and efforts of the Sisters of the Holy Names, who were committed to using music education as a way to serve their community. The center’s mission is to provide music education to all, regardless of age, ability, or financial circumstance. Today, the Holy Names Music Center continues to impact the community through its educational programs, scholarship opportunities, and community outreach efforts.

HNMC offers private lessons in a variety of instruments, including piano, violin, guitar, voice, and more. Additionally, the music center provides group lessons, and ensembles, as well summer programs and workshops, for students who want to deepen their knowledge and skills, find joy and reap the many benefits of learning music.

One of the center’s most important initiatives is our scholarship program, which provides financial assistance to students who might not otherwise be able to afford music lessons. Through this program, the center is able to ensure that all students, regardless of their financial situation, have access to high-quality music education.

In addition to educational programs, Holy Names Music Center is also dedicated to community outreach. Music 4 Vets provides free music lessons to veterans who are recovering from injuries or dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This program has had a profound impact on many veterans in the Spokane community, helping them to heal and find joy through music.

Holy Names Music Center also offers affordable rehearsal and recital space for community groups and individuals, providing a much-needed resource for musicians in the area. Recitals and performances are hosted throughout the year, showcasing the talents of students and faculty, as well as visiting artists from around the world.

On April 21st, 2023, the Holy Names Music Center will be hosting a fundraising gala at the Commons at Mukogawa, just down the street from the music center. La Belle Epoque, a beautiful Paris themed evening will celebrate the musical legacy of the Sisters of the Holy Names, Fort Wright College, Holy Names Academy, and Holy Names Music Center. The event will feature a delicious dinner, live music, wine, and a fine auction. Attendees will have the opportunity to support music in the community while enjoying a fun evening with friends and family. Performances will be given by Imagine Jazz, Dr. Archie Chen, Mick and Stacy Wetzel from the L.A. Philharmonic, and students of Holy Names Music Center, including Amanda Nguyen on violin.

The funds raised at the gala will help to support the center’s educational programs, scholarship program, and community outreach efforts, ensuring that the Holy Names Music Center can continue to provide high-quality music education to students of all ages and backgrounds in the Spokane community.

Students, faculty, donors, and friends are all invited to attend the upcoming fundraising gala and show their support for the Music Center. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the center directly. Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to support music education in Spokane while enjoying a memorable evening filled with music, food, and community spirit.

For more information or to register for the event visit: hnmc.org/tickets
or Call (509) 326-9516
M – Th 10 am – 6 pm PST

Guitar’s in Recovery

As part of Military Appreciation month I thought I would post a little more about the Guitar program we do for the VA Medical Center. I asked JP for a quote and one of his students sent this letter. I thought it was worth publishing in it’s entirety to give you a scope of what our veteran’s experience and the benefits of this program.

We are grateful for our veteran’s and active military for their service and sacrifice, and so grateful for the opportunity to give back to them in some way and to bring the healing power of music to as many as we can!

Letter from one of the veterans currently in the VA Guitar program:

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself and my gratitude towards the “Guitar’s in Recovery” program at the Spokane VA Behavioral Health Center.  I would also very much like to express my gratitude towards Mr. Shields, JP as we like to call him.

My involvement with JP came a few years after I had been going to the VA Behavioral Health Center.  I am a veteran that sustained an injury while on active duty.  The injury stayed with me after I was discharged, and subsequently I would have my career interrupted with surgery.  Recovery usually took about 8 months and then I would have to start over looking for work.  I repeated this 4 times.  I felt like I was stuck in this cycle of pain in which I would eventually have to have another surgery and start my career over again.  Between the 3rd and 4th surgery I started to come undone mentally.  It is not easy to explain, and I am not sure if in general people are aware of these sorts of situations.

At the VA hospital I found out that my story is not that uncommon.  Eventually, I lost my ability to work and provide for my family and I was in a lot of physical pain.  In this process, I became severely depressed and suicidal and developed severe anxiety.  I had lost my identity and I saw no future, and I blamed my situation on myself.  A couple of times I asked for help and it did not come.  I gave up and I almost killed myself.  That is a stark reality for me.  It humbled me at my core.

One day my wife brought me to the VA hospital and a social worker asked the right questions and I was admitted to the psychiatric ward on the 3rd floor.  We call it the “3rd floor.”  There is a group of us that have been through the 3rd floor and that is how we like to refer to it between ourselves.  It is a place I never wanted to go to, but never wanted to leave once I had been there for a time.  I was actually afraid to leave.

While inpatient, I entered group therapy in the Finding Solution Group (originally called the Suicide Prevention group, later to be called the Suicide Risk Management Group and finally being called the Finding Solutions Group.) In this group, we explored what it takes to get healthy and what getting healthy means.  It was a chance to talk about anything that burdened us and to listen to others.  It was a work in progress type situation.  People would sometimes explore experiences outside the group and then report back their experiences.  It was during one of these times that I learned about the guitar lessons provided by JP from Holy Names Music Center and organized by Pam Wick (VA recreational therapist).  I knew that to care for myself I needed to get involved in something.  I saw this as an opportunity. I had no expectations, and I can’t say I had much desire to play a guitar… I just knew that I needed to try to do something.  I needed to find or make new parts to myself because I felt so much of my identity had been lost or stripped away.

My guitar lessons with JP (Guitar’s in Recovery) is part of the silver lining in my dark cloud.  I went through a terrible storm and I found a new side of myself in learning to play a guitar and in the social interactions with others while learning to play.  It has become a little part of a new identity and it has shown me how to heal.  I realize the process of healing and discovery is slow, and sometimes taken in little steps.  In this case, it has been little steps with a guitar and my instructor JP and my classmates.  Learning to play the guitar has been difficult for me, but I was not there to necessarily learn to play the guitar.  I was there for the acceptance and the process and the need for something positive. 

I can now say, “I can play a guitar.”  I’m not a great guitar player but, I am me, and I love my guitar, and I love the process of learning to play and the people that come to Guitar’s in Recovery.  It is a great feeling to feel, and I feel so fortunate to be able to partake in the program.

Thank you so much!


May 9th 2018″

If you are interested in supporting our mission programs like the Guitar’s in Recovery program for veterans, please consider donating by clicking here:


Holy Names Music Center’s mission is “to provide high quality instruction and performance opportunities for all!”

Post by: Elisabeth Burrell