Trumbull musician wins Greater Bridgeport Symphony competitions

Julian Shively is having a great spring.

The young Trumbull musician won the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra’s (GBYO’s) Concerto Competition earlier this year, earning a featured spot as soloist at the GBYO Spring Concert on May 15, where he will play Rhapsody in Blue on piano.

If that wasn’t enough, Julian took home a first-place finish at the Greater Bridgeport Symphony (GBS) Young Instrumentalist Strings Competition on Monday, where he played cello and bested a field of 15 musicians from all over southern Connecticut.  

The dual-threat performer reflected on his recent success with The Times this week as he prepared to play with GBS conductor Eric Jacobsen as a member of a local string quartet. 

“Before I was even born, my parents had already decided that their children would play music, so they started me on piano when I was 4,” he said. “Over the years, many people have inspired me to play music, like my current piano teacher, Erika Schroth, as well as Andrew Armstrong, who has recently been coaching me and helping me a great deal.”

Julian, who plays the cello in the principal orchestra and has been with GBYO for seven years,  said the concerto competition featured two rounds — a private audition and a public performance — that were completed in January.

He told The Times that all of the finalists were his friends from the orchestra.

“When the judges announced the winner and my name was called, I was surprised for a moment, but overjoyed to have won,” he recalled.

“I have been playing in GBYO since I was in fourth grade,” he added. “It has been a great experience for me musically and socially.”

Piano man

All principal orchestra members are eligible to enter the annual concerto competition. And if a member plays an instrument other than the orchestral instrument he or she uses during performances, the player is allowed to audition with that second instrument.

In Julian’s case, the piano was a no-brainer.

“I have liked Rhapsody in Blue since the first time I heard it, which I think was in the Fantasia 2000 movie,” he said. “I have also listened to numerous recordings and I am very aware of what is going on in the orchestra at any moment.

“My teacher was worried I wouldn’t have enough time to learn it, but I really wanted to play it, so I convinced her I would work hard and learn it in time,” he said.

The talented musician, who likes to ride his bike and play soccer in his free time, said there aren’t really any nerves about performing as a soloist in May.

“This is not my first time soloing with an orchestra,” he said.

“The experiences were always very positive,” Julian added. “I think of it as being more fun and exciting than something to feel nervous about.”

Getting to know Eric

The string quartet Julian will be performing with on WTNH Thursday, April 7, is made up of all Trumbull and Fairfield kids from the GBYO’s principal orchestra.

The other three students include Jeff Pierson, who is also concertmaster of the GBYO, and Fairfield residents Bryan and Jeremy Page.

The ensemble got together with Jacobsen a few weeks ago at a rehearsal.

“He worked with us on Mozart’s Magic Flute overture,” Julian told The Times. “It was a privilege to get to work with a great conductor like him, and the fact that he is also a cellist is also cool. “Our quartet is really looking forward to working with him in the TV feature,” he added.

For his part, Jacobsen started working with the GBYO students two years ago.

“Not only are they incredible musicians but they’re great people,” he said. “I feel I have learned a ton in my few visits with them.”

“I love watching people grow,” he added. “I’ve been so thrilled to see students over the last 24 months improve and excel at what they love.”

The conductor is preparing for the GBS season finale Saturday, April 9 — a show called “Northern Lights: A Celebration of Music of Northern European Composers Grieg, Elgar, Sibelius, and Stravinsky.”

“As the music director of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and a community member at large, music education should never be overlooked,” Jacobsen told The Times. “It makes us great humans and it gives us a long love of art.”

The season finale kicks off at the Klein Auditorium at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 9. For tickets, call 203-576-0263 or visit