SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – A local Utahn and student at Salt Lake City’s Gifted Music School has taken first place in a prestigious international music competition, known as the Ronald Sachs International Music Competition.

Ezekiel Sokoloff, 17, beat out older musicians from the most recognizable music colleges in the nation, including Juilliard, Curtis, Colburn and others, on October 3.

Sokoloff, who may be recognized as a two-time Salute to Youth soloist with the Utah Symphony, is in his first year of eligibility to compete in the upper division of most competitions.

The high school senior states, “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.”

Perhaps a tribute to his character, Sokoloff goes on to remark that the most memorable moment of the experience, for him, was getting sushi with new friends after the performances were over.

His father, however, 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.”

His hard work certainly has paid off, and it doesn’t hurt to have teacher and Gifted Music School co-founder Eugene Watanabe, who reportedly has a reputation for producing national award-winning students, in your corner.

Sokoloff exemplifies the school tagline “Music Education for All,” reportedly volunteering time every week to teach violin students in Gifted Music School’s Project GRIT (Growth, Resilience, Instinct, Tenacity) program, which operates in Title I public schools year-round.

He’s even used some of his competition winnings to buy violins for young students in the program.