Young Texas Artists (YTA) promised an unforgettable night of music and celebration in 2023, and that’s exactly what it delivered. The nonprofit arts organization wowed audiences March 11 with its Finalists’ Concert & Awards presentation, featuring gifted classical musicians, and YTA’s big Texas party: the Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala.
“Our concert and gala were especially poignant this year because we took time to appreciate how far YTA has come while getting a glimpse of the future: gifted young artists who are just beginning their careers as classical musicians,” said Susie Moore Pokorski, YTA President/CEO.
The three-day Young Texas Artists Music Competition, under the leadership of Artistic Director Emelyne Bingham, saw a record 91 applicants, and 78 musicians qualified to compete in the preliminary rounds. Contestants vied for a share of $40,000 in monetary prizes along with career mentoring and performance opportunities. The artists, ages 18-30 (20-32 in the Voice Division) are Texas residents or affiliated with a Texas music school. They competed in one of four performance divisions: Piano; Strings; Voice; and Winds, Brass, Percussion; Harp and Guitar.
The March 11 finalists’ concert took place at Crighton Theatre in the Downtown Conroe Cultural District.
“As always, our audience was awed by the amazing talent performing onstage,” Pokorski said. “There’s also a sense of satisfaction for those who support YTA and attend our concerts: They know they’re playing a part in helping these musicians move closer to achieving their dreams.”
YTA’s 2023 Grand Prize Winner was mezzo-soprano Stephanie Doche, who has a Master of Music degree from The University of Texas at Austin. Doche also won the Gold Medal in Voice with her performances of George Frideric Handel’s “Dopo notte atra e funesta” from Ariodante and “Sein wir wieder gut” from Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, by Richard Strauss. She won a total of $10,000.
Additional Gold Medal winners were Ayane Nakajima, Piano Division, Rice University; marimba player Mateo Seghezzo, Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp, and Guitar Division, Sam Houston State University; and violinist Fiona Shea, Strings Division, Colburn Conservatory (Los Angeles). The Gold Medalists received $5,000 each, and Shea, also the Audience Choice Award winner, received an additional $3,000.
Silver medals went to Isaac Foreman, Piano Division, Rice University; cellist Han Lee, Rice University; clarinetist Jonathan Lopez, Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division, Yale University; and bass William Guanbo Su, The Juilliard School.
The finalists’ concert audience also experienced a moving performance by Dallas Symphony pianist Anastasia Markina, the 2007 YTA Grand Prize winner. Markina, YTA’s Guest of Honor, dedicated her performance of “Fairy-Tale, Op. 20, No. 1” by Nikolai Medtner to the children of Ukraine.
Also that evening, Pokorski was honored for her 25th year at the helm of YTA by Lyn Howard, Myra Liston and Sylvia Wiggins of the former Montgomery County Performing Arts Society, which was responsible for running the YTA Music Competition in its early years. YTA recognized Pokorski as well and presented her with a gift during the Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala.
The gala, which raises money for YTA’s music competition, was presented under the leadership of co-chairs Terry Husbands Giles and Allyson Ayton.
“It was a fabulous gala,” Pokorski said. “I love the sense of excitement in the air during Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue and the Texas personality infused in the décor, guests’ outfits, the barbecue and music — everything about the celebration.”
YTA’s major donors in 2023 included Dr. Douglas and Carol Aycock, City of Conroe, Nancy Dossey, Annette and Ken Hallock, Bill and Lana Hazlett, Lynda and Dan Kain, Janie and Richard Kobes, Myra and Ron Liston, Gaby and John Tryon and four anonymous donors.
About Young Texas Artists:
Young Texas Artists, founded in 1983, is a one-of-a-kind nonprofit presenter of music competitions and events, career development programs and cultural enrichment outreach. The nationally acclaimed Young Texas Artists Music Competition and the YTA Career Development Program provide professional guidance, mentoring and highly sought performance experience. An Official Music Competition of the State of Texas, it is one of the few competitions in the nation with four performance divisions: Voice; Piano; Strings; and Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar. The YTA contest is open to classical artists, ages 18-30 (20-32 for Voice), who are Texas residents or affiliated with a Texas music school. Over the years, Young Texas Artists has helped produce many distinguished professionals who have gone on to join orchestras, opera companies, universities and music schools around the world. youngtexasartists.org
Young Texas Artists is a member of the Greater Conroe Arts Alliance, the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Cultural Trust and Texans for the Arts.
Young Texas Artists, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization founded and headquartered in Conroe, Montgomery County.