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Ana Maria Vera is the only guest soloist with the Boston Pops who fondly, if inaccurately, refers to conductor Arthur Fiedler (above) as “Uncle Arthur.” The pigtailed 10-year-old prodigy from Washington, D.C. is a seasoned concert performer who can list among her credits 13 appearances with Fiedler’s orchestra. She also has played with the National Symphony, the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Air Force Symphony, the orchestra that she first soloed with in 1973. Like other girls her age, Ana Maria plays with dolls and studies ballet when she isn’t practicing. Placed before a keyboard, however, she becomes a study in fierce concentration. This ability to shift her moods has led at least one observer to label her a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Ana Maria’s only pianistic handicap seems to be her size. Small for her age, her hands aren’t large enough to span an arc beyond one octave. Her father, Mario, a Bolivian-born engineer now working for the District of Columbia, and her Dutch-born mother, Marianna, try not to spoil her. “We are proud, but we don’t fuss over her,” says her mother. “We try to lead a normal life.”

Mark Edmondson remembers meeting John Newcombe last December in the dressing room before the start of the Australian Open Tennis Championships. Newcombe, ranked 18th in the world, was on hand to defend his Australian title. “I was the only one there so he asked me to practice,” says Edmondson. “I thought, ‘Crikey, he hits hard. I hope I don’t have to play him.’ ” Surprisingly, the unranked Edmondson, 21, went on not only to play Newcombe but to beat him in the finals. Edmondson thus became the first unseeded player to win the 70-year-old competition. When Edmondson began playing tennis at 10, he did not seem particularly gifted. In fact, when he was 12, local experts in his hometown of c suggested a switch to swimming or rugby. But Edmondson was convinced that tennis would offer greater financial rewards. After three years of playing local and international tennis circuits, Edmondson’s bankroll had shriveled to $889. He had to take odd jobs—mopping floors and selling flowers—to finance his tennis touring. His victory over Newcombe netted him $10,358. “Newcombe told me how to play the center court,” says Edmondson. “Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so helpful if he knew he would be meeting me in the final.”