Natalie Loughran Named First-Prize Winner in the 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition

Co-presented by the Colburn School and the American Viola Society

(Saturday, December 18, Los Angeles, CA) – The Colburn School and the American Viola Society today announced that Natalie Loughran has been named the first-prize winner in the 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition, which took place at the Colburn School, December 13–18, 2021. Samuel Rosenthal won second prize, and Nicholas Swensen won third prize.

Natalie Loughran has won $15,000, as well as an invitation to perform at the 2022 American Viola Society Festival & 47th International Viola Congress in June 2022, and an invitation to participate in the Semi-Finals of the Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh International Competition in May 2022. Samuel Rosenthal has won $10,000, and Nicholas Swensen has won $5,000.

Natalie Loughran is pursuing her M.M. at the Juilliard School under the tutelage of Roger Tapping and Misha Amory, where she is a proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship. She appeared as a finalist for the 2020 Young Concert Artist Auditions and semi finalist at the Tertis International Viola Competition, where she was awarded a special prize for her performance of the Bowen Viola Sonata in C Minor. She is a member of the Kila Quartet, which has appeared on WQXR’s series, Midday Masterpieces, and has participated in the Perlman Music Program Chamber Workshop and the Robert Mann String Quartet Institute. Natalie has performed with the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra under Gábor Takács-Nagy, toured internationally with the Budapest Festival Orchestra directed by Ivan Fischer, and will be a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for the 2021-22 Season. In summers 2021 and 2022, Natalie will be attending Yellow Barn and Marlboro.

Samuel Rosenthal, age 21, grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where he began his musical studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Since the summer of 2016, Sam has attended the Perlman Music Program on Shelter Island, NY. More than anything, Sam enjoys playing chamber music with his incredible colleagues and friends. As a member of the Razumovsky Quartet, he received the Silver Medal in the Junior Division of the 2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. He was also the Third Prize winner in the 2018 Johansen International Competition for Strings in Washington, D.C. Sam is a proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship at the Juilliard School where he studies with Heidi Castleman and Hsin-Yun Huang.

Nicholas Swensen is a passionate and active violist, chamber musician, soloist/recitalist, and conductor. As a violist, he has won several prizes such as first prize at the Oskar Nedbal International Viola Competition in 2020 (Prague), fourth and special prize at the International Max Rostal Competition (Berlin), the Danish Radio Classical Talent Award, and the Carl Nielsen talent award. Nicholas has performed at Denmark’s foremost music festivals, the Kronberg Academy Festival, Accademia Isola Classica, Oberstdorfer Musiksommer, Music@Menlo, and Ravinia Festival. In April 2021 he appeared with the Odense Symphony Orchestra performing the Walton Viola Concerto. He has received valuable guidance from esteemed musicians such as Tabea Zimmermann, Kim Kashkashian, Antoine Tamestit, and Ettore Causa, among others. Nicholas has studied with Barbara Westphal at Lübeck Musikhochschule and Lars Anders Tomter at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree at the Juilliard School with Heidi Castleman and Misha Amory.

Keoni Bolding won the Transcriptions Prize and received $1,000, for his performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca Paraphrase (Act II; arranged by K. Bolding), and Natalie Loughran won the BIPOC Prize for best performance of a work by a BIPOC composer and received $1,000, for her performance of William Grant Still’s Suite for Violin and Piano (2nd movement; arranged by N. Loughran).

During the final competition round, Samuel Rosenthal and Nicholas Swensen performed Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, and Natalie Loughran performed William Walton’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, with the Colburn Orchestra conducted by Salonen Conducting Fellow Molly Turner.

A total of 24 live round competitors from all over the world, representing 10 countries, participated in the 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition. The average age of participants was 23, with the youngest aged 18 and the oldest 29.

The live round competition jury included Barry Shiffman (Jury Chairman, Canada), Andrés Cárdenes (USA/Cuba), Victoria Chiang (USA), Daniel Heifetz (USA), Mai Motobuchi (Japan), Dimitri Murrath (Belgium), and Chauncey Patterson (USA). For full biographies, please visit

As one of the most renowned string instrument competitions in the world, the Primrose International Viola Competition features the world’s best and most promising young violists. The Competition offers southern California one week of exceptional international competition, exquisite music, and an exhilarating finish. All rounds are open to the public, and audiences can expect to hear a broad survey of the viola repertoire.

Founded in 1979 by the American Viola Society as the first international competition solely for violists, the Primrose International Viola Competition is proud of the rich history and legacy it promotes. For over 40 years, the Competition has continued to attract distinguished jurors and talented participants worldwide, serving as an inspiration to young artists across the globe. The Competition has an international reputation for identifying the talent of tomorrow and is respected for its artistic and professional integrity. Its laureates occupy principal seats of major symphony orchestras, act as professors in major centers of education, and have achieved critical acclaim as international soloists.

About the Colburn School
A performing arts institution located in the heart of Los Angeles, the Colburn School trains students from beginners to those about to embark on professional careers. The academic units of the School provide a complete spectrum of music and dance education united by a single philosophy: that all who desire to study music or dance should have access to top-level instruction.

  • The Community School of Performing Arts welcomes students of all ages, from seven months old to adults. It offers over 120 classes each year in orchestral instruments, piano, guitar, voice, jazz, music theory, drama, and ensembles including orchestra, choir, and chamber music.
  • The diploma- and degree-granting Conservatory of Music is distinguished by a unique all-scholarship model, renowned faculty, and outstanding performance opportunities. It prepares the very highest level of collegiate musicians for professional careers.
  • The Trudl Zipper Dance Institute develops performers of all levels, from aspiring professionals in the Dance Academy to beginners starting in Youth Dance. Students of all levels receive training in ballet, tap, musical theater, and modern genres as part of a comprehensive dance education.
  • The Music Academy is a highly selective training program for gifted young pre-collegiate musicians, designed to prepare students for conservatory study and performing careers at the highest levels of achievement. This residential program balances performance, musical instruction, and academics.
  • Created to serve all units of the School, the Center for Innovation and Community Impact empowers the musical and dance leaders of tomorrow by nurturing students’ passion and ability to serve their communities, preparing them for sustainable careers, and embracing the development of new ideas. The Center embodies Colburn’s commitment to developing young artists with the curiosity, skills, and commitment to make a difference in their field.

Each year, more than 2,000 students from around the world come to Colburn to benefit from the renowned faculty, exceptional facilities, and focus on excellence that unites the community. Learn more at

About the American Viola Society
Founded in 1971, the American Viola Society inspires excellence and builds community through viola study, performance, research, composition, and lutherie. The AVS provides support and resources for a global community of violists and viola enthusiasts with online resources, live events, competitions, scholarships, online series, funding opportunities, and the Journal of the American Viola Society.