John Fawcett with fans after the performance.

John Fawcett with fans after the performance.

Watching two young violin soloists – they were 13 and 14 years old – perform this evening with the Oregon Mozart Players was far more engaging than even I expected.

I’ve been a fan of the idea since I first heard of it: Putting on a soloist competition in Eugene for young musicians around Oregon, the two winners of which would be awarded performance slots in a regular season concert.

I loved the idea; I wasn’t sure how it would turn out in practice.

In practice, it was spectacular, and then some. Thirteen-year-old Claire Wells and 14-year-old John Fawcett dazzled the crowd tonight at Beall Concert Hall with their music, their technique, and their charm.

The two young players – he’s from Bend, she’s from Springfield – were wildly different from each other.

Claire played contemporary music – three movements from Alexander Arutiunian’s 1988 Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra – that I’m guessing at least half the audience had never heard, or heard of; John played the third movement of Antonín Dvořák’s 1879 Violin Concerto in A minor, a piece that just about everyone recognizes, even if they can’t put their finger on what it is.

She was serene and inward looking when she took the stage in an elegant blue gown, ready to tackle a difficult and inward looking, practically spiritual piece of music. He was wearing a red bowtie and a black suit that was a little too large as he launched into a concerto that was all flash and wow.

I suspect, between the two of them, that Claire’s technique was a bit tighter; John, though, connected with the audience with his babyfaced smile and out-there enthusiasm.

What really struck me, though, to the point that it about made my eyes well up was this: Classical orchestral music is one of the arenas where bright hardworking children can operate on an even playing field with adults.

We so often don’t take teenagers seriously. They’re just kids, we say. But these two kids, whose parents had to drive them to the concert hall (and let’s just take that car trip as a metaphor for the life of sacrifice that both sets of parents are living for their kids to play at this level), stood up on stage and played alongside adults, and had the audience on its feet shouting and applauding – and the orchestra concertmaster grinning from ear to ear – as full-on musical equals.