This past June, Rebecca Yeh was crowned Miss Brainerd Lakes as a part of the Miss Minnesota Education Foundation, the official preliminary to the Miss America Pageant.
You might remember Rebecca for her stunning performance of the Adagio from J.S. Bach's Violin Sonata No. 1 as a Featured Round performer for Minnesota Varsity this past spring. A wonderful musical talent, Rebecca left this past weekend for her freshman year at Ohio Northern University as a pharmacy major.
Before she left, I had a chance to talk with Rebecca about the competition, her plans, and her music.
Classical MPR: Have you done any pageant competitions before?
Rebecca Yeh: The Miss Brainerd Lakes pageant was the first pageant I competed in. I attended the pageant in 2010 and thought that I would have a great shot at it this year. Coming from a musical background and with my accomplishments as a violinist, I felt that I would have a lot to offer to the title of Miss Brainerd Lakes.
The Miss Brainerd Lakes Pageant is a part of the Miss America Organization that requires a talent and a personal platform, which really gives more depth to the program aside from being judged like a typical "beauty pageant".
MPR: What repertoire did you play in the competition?
RY. For my talent performance, I played Vieuxtemp's Souvenir D'Amerique Yankee Doodle Variations. The piece starts out with a very serious, almost uninviting opening, which eventually sneaks into the theme of Yankee Doodle. The reaction from the audience is always enjoyable, as they are surprised recognize the tune.
MPR: What will you be doing as Miss Brainerd Lakes for the coming year?
RY. So far, I have been able to travel to other local pageants as visiting royalty. I have also been part of parades in the Brainerd Lakes Area, as well as community events throughout the summer. In addition, I have had the opportunity to speak at service organizations such as the local rotaries.
At the local level of pageant competition, the main goal is to promote my platform, and prepare for the Miss Minnesota Pageant next June. During my breaks at home, I will have the opportunity to visit my community and participate in as many events as possible. My platform is named, "A Voice for Autism", inspired by my 20-yr-old brother, Philip, who has pervasive developmental disorder under the spectrum of autism. Being crowned June 25th, I am in the process of developing my platform so that I am able to make real, tangible changes, not only in my brother's life, but in the lives of other people with autism. My hopes are that I can integrate my music with my experience with autism, to create programs and bring awareness to autism spectrum disorders. I have had the opportunity to visit summer programs for autistic students and perform familiar pieces for them, while telling them about myself and taking questions. It has been amazing to see the effects even the simplest music can have on the relaxation and calmness of some students. I am hoping that by the time Miss MN comes around, I will have had opportunities to reach out and use the honor of being Miss Brainerd Lakes to help these people.
MPR: How did it feel to win?
RY: Winning the pageant was such an honor. I had put a lot of work into my preparation for that day. What many people don't realize is that the pageant itself is a small peek at the journey of growth each of the contestant's experiences. The interview portion of the pageant occurs off-stage, before the night of the pageant. Through months of mock interviewing and staying aware of my current events, I began to develop and communicate my viewpoints in society, culture and politics. In addition, the judging of the pageant looks at all areas of the contestant: physical fitness, public speaking, academics, and talent. Winning all categories of competition (swimsuit, evening gown, talent, and interview), I was honored and elated that my preparation had been well worth it.