Young Texas Artists Music Competition Winners Announced
Talented classical musicians from around the globe shone brightly during the 36th annual Young Texas Artists Music Competition, held March 12-14 in Conroe.
During the competition, classical musicians ages 18-32 (20-32 for Voice) vied for a share of $20,000 in monetary prizes and performance opportunities. Competitors, who are Texas residents or affiliated with a Texas university or school of music, competed in four divisions: Voice; Piano; Strings; and Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar.
This year’s competition accepted 67 contestants, including a number of international musicians. YTA typically draws young artists from approximately 10 to 15 countries, including Canada, China, South Korea, Taiwan and nations throughout Europe and South America.
Because the competition took place as national, state and local officials were calling for social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), YTA made the difficult decision to cancel the Finalists’ Concert and Awards that had been scheduled for the evening of March 14.
Contestants were able to complete the preliminary rounds, however, and judges awarded Gold and Silver Medals. Contestants also will receive detailed written critiques from the judges, who are all esteemed leaders in their respective disciplines.
“We were so impressed with the professionalism, passion and skill our contestants demonstrated during their time with us,” YTA President/CEO Susie Pokorski said. “Participating in a music competition can be stressful under the best of circumstances. These young musicians remained focused on putting their best selves forward, even during a time of potentially frightening news and uncertainty.”
Pokorski also voiced gratitude for the many people who made the competition possible, including committee chairs, volunteers, donors, sponsors, competitors, vendors, judges, staff, board members, host homes, family and friends.
“Thank you all for your support, hard work, patience, loyalty, understanding and encouragement as we chalk up another successful YTA event to our record books,” Pokorski wrote in a recent letter to YTA stakeholders. “I say ‘successful’ because though we faced cancellations and a challenge like never before, I think we lived up to our mission ‘to encourage excellence in young Texas musicians and inspire their audiences, enriching the cultural life of our state.’”
The 2020 gold medalist in Voice was soprano Elena Villalón from Austin. Villalón earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) under the tutelage of William McGraw and is now an apprentice artist with Santa Fe Opera and participating in Houston Grand Opera’s Studio Artist program. Villalón also was a national winner in the 2019 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, and she won the audience prize in Houston Grand Opera’s 31st Annual Eleanor McCollum Competition.
The Strings Division gold medal went to violinist SeungHoon Lee from Seoul, South Korea, who is pursuing his master’s degree at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Lee has a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and artist diploma from Korea National University of Arts. He is the grand prize winner of the 2009 Daejeon Music Association Competition. He also was the first prize winner in the 2009 Korea Brahms Association Competition, and in 2014 was a finalist in the International Solo Violin Competition and the Korea Herald Music Competition.
In the Piano Division, the gold medalist is Zhengyi Huang from Shenzhen, China. After meeting Jay Hershberger, president of the American Liszt Society, at age 14, Huang moved to the U.S. to study with him. Currently, Huang is an undergraduate at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where he studies piano with Robert Roux. Huang is the winner of numerous music competitions, including the 2016 Young Artists Solo Competition, which awarded him the grand prize. His awards also include first place in piano in the Mika Hasler Competition.
Flutist Arin Sarkissian from La Crescenta, Calif. was named the gold medalist in the Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division. Sarkissian is an undergraduate student at Rice University, where he studies with Leone Buyse of the Shepherd School of Music. Sarkissian won first place in the 2019 Mika Hassler Competition, and his awards also include an honorable mention in the Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition. He has completed international tours with several orchestras, including the National Youth Orchestra of the United States.
Silver medals went to: Michael Skarke, countertenor, Voice Division, Baylor University; Julia Vicic, viola, Strings Division, Rice University; Chelsea de Souza, Piano Division, Rice University; and Chin-Tze Lee, clarinet, Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division, University of North Texas.
Each gold medalist will receive $3,000, and silver medalists will receive $1,000.
Young Texas Artists major sponsors and supporters this year include Houston Public Media (houstonpublicmedia.org), Lynda and Dan Kain, Annette and Ken Hallock, Carol and Dr. Douglas Aycock and the Conroe Visitors Bureau (visitconroe.com).
Our mission is to encourage excellence in young Texas musicians, inspire their audiences and enrich the cultural life of our state.