The year’s elite international Wandering Stars Music Festival will take place from March 1-5 in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.Each year, the festival, organized and funded by the European Foundation for Support of Culture, rotates between competitions for piano, winds or string instruments. This year, scores of contestants for the final rounds of the single reed (clarinet and saxophone) wind competition, will gather to compete as well as present five concerts for the public, in cooperation with the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, Tel Aviv University.The top soloists will perform with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Dimitry Yablonsky and Sergey Smbatyan, in programs which blend classic and contemporary repertoire.The list of soloists is a veritable who’s who of young, exciting performers: Maxim Vengerov, a violinist of international acclaim, will perform the Bruch Violin Concerto with Smbatyan conducting the ASSO. Shirley Brill, Israeli concert clarinetist, will open the festivities on March 1, performing the world premiere Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra by Alexey Shor, in the Jerusalem Theater, Henry Crown Hall, with Smbatyan conducting the Jerusalem Symphony.Brill lives in Germany with her husband, pianist Jonathan Aner, and their two young children. She combines a busy career as soloist and chamber musician, guest professor of clarinet at the Academy of Music “Hans Eisler” in Berlin, and professor of clarinet at the Hochshcule fur Musik Saar in Saarbrucken, Germany. In addition, she returns regularly to Israel to perform and teach.Speaking to The Jerusalem Post by phone, Brill’s voice brimmed with enthusiasm.“I am looking forward to participating in the concerts and competition of the Wandering Stars music project. Their competitions are always presided by an excellent jury, and the prize money of 20,000 euros is of utmost importance to young musicians. The participants are 18 to 35 years in age, and will not only receive critiques and compliments, but also have opportunities to enjoy themselves. “I believe it is a good thing to enter competitions because you learn a great deal. It is not only through the many months of preparation, but also the opportunity to prove yourself, make friends and professional contacts, and bring yourself forward. Even the non-winners win something.”BRILL VIEWS the world premiere of Shor’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra as another distinguishing factor of the festival.“Shor is an excellent and prolific contemporary composer,” says Brill. “He lives in the United States, and is the resident composer of the festival. I regard his music as beautiful. At each concert, his selections are showcased. I am thrilled to be playing the first performance of his clarinet concerto with the orchestra, and anxious to hear it’s full effect onstage. I think the audience will enjoy his music and be humming his melodies as they leave.”The person instrumental in bringing this festival to Israel is conductor Yablonsky, a musician with distinguished, international careers as a conductor and solo cellist. He is artistic director of the Wandering Stars Music Festival, teaches at TAU Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, performs internationally as a soloist and chamber musician, and is noted for his skills and successes in arranging music festivals worldwide.Yablonsky will conduct three concerts during the festival with ASSO: in Tel Aviv, with award-winning cellist Alexander Knyazev performing the Haydn Cello Concerto #1, and in Jerusalem, with 19-year-old Daniel Lozakovich, violinist, performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.Yablonsky will conduct the final concert of the Festival at TAU Smolarz Hall in a celebratory program with the ASSO and finalists of the competition. At the end of the concert, the winners will be announced.Yablonsky was born into a musical family in Moscow. His mother, Oxana, is a celebrated pianist and his father, Albert Zaionz, is a professional oboist. Yablonsky’s early musical training was at the Central Music School in Moscow, where he studied with the best teachers, and, as a youth, performed throughout the former Soviet Union. In 1977, after many years of applications and refusals, his family was given a visa to leave Russia and emigrate to the USA, where he studied cello with Lorne Monroe at Juilliard and conducted at Yale University.“I am very excited about the festival’s decision to hold the competition finals in Israel,” he says. “It is a tremendous project and huge expense, which the European Union helps finance. It definitely puts us on the cultural map. We will be the site of five intense days of vigorous competitions, concerts in the best halls, and performances by outstanding soloists. This festival is decidedly a worthwhile endeavor for both audience and musician.”Ticket information and performance schedule for Jerusalem: *6226 or bimot.co.il; for Tel Aviv: *9066 or eventim.co.il.