News | Nov 4

Local 17-year-old Takes Top Prize at International Music Competition


Salt Lake City, UT, October 26, 2022 — Gifted Music School, a national leader in pre-collegiate classical music training, announced today that their student Ezekiel Sokoloff (17) took first place in the Ronald Sachs International Music Competition on October 3, 2022.

Those who’ve followed Sokoloff’s rise to prominence might recognize him as a two-time Salute to Youth soloist with the Utah Symphony. Now a highschool senior, this is the first year Sokoloff has been able to enter the upper division of most competitions. At Ronald Sachs, Zeke competed against musicians from the most recognizable music colleges in the nation. He won.

Sokoloff is reserved about the win, saying “I just don’t think “winning” is the important part…I feel that the main objective of any competition is to prepare to the best of your ability and be in the moment during the performance. In all honesty, the most memorable moment of the entire experience was getting sushi with new friends after the performances were over!” says Sokoloff.

But Sokoloff’s father, Scott Epstein, says “We have noticed a lightness to his step and an increase in his confidence after his performance….Being recognized alongside some of the most accomplished young musicians in the country has made him realize that he belongs. His hard work has paid off.” 

Sokoloff’s teacher (and Gifted Music School co-founder), Eugene Watanabe, has a reputation for producing national award-winning students. In 2018, Sokoloff won the junior division at MTNA nationals. Caroline Durham, another Watanabe student, won the senior division. But Watanabe is quick to deflect praise. “It takes a whole team to grow a musician like this. Gifted Music School nurtures the whole child with an army of teaching artists... I’m probably the least degreed teacher there,” he jokes. 

Despite his modesty, Gifted Music School’s reputation speaks for itself. Since its founding in 2009, Gifted Music School students have soloed at Carnegie Hall more than 15 times, won multiple national competitions, and been accepted for further study at the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the country, including Juilliard, Curtis, Colburn, Stanford, Yale, and all Utah universities. 

Sokoloff exemplifies the school tagline “Music Education for All,” volunteering time every week to teach violin students in Gifted Music School’s Project GRIT program, which operates in Title I public schools year-round. He’s also used some of his competition winnings to buy violins for young students in the program. 

Sokoloff doesn't have much time to spare, though - in March, he’s headed back to compete in MTNA nationals again. Local fans are eagerly watching his rise. 

Says Jennifer Zemp, a GMS Board Member, “I’ve been watching Zeke perform since he was 7 years old. Even then it was clear he had both the discipline and the heart to become a star. I can’t wait to see it happen.” 


Interested in the best music lessons in the state?
Music lessons in Salt lake City are available in Violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar, flute, clarinet, and singing. Simply register, and we will be in touch to customize a music lesson program for your child.