Young Texas Artists Announces 2024 Music Competition Winners

Classical music competition finalists applaud for grand prize winner,

Exceptional Gala and Concert Deliver Unforgettable Experiences

Arts nonprofit Young Texas Artists (YTA) presented another brilliantly orchestrated evening of down-home Texana and high-toned concert classics at its benefit gala, Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue, March 9. The three-part celebration included a dinner with dancing and a live auction, the Young Texas Artists Music Competition Finalists’ Concert & Awards presentation featuring exquisite performances by rising classical music stars, and an after-party with a live Texas band, desserts and champagne toasts to the winners.

Daeun Han, Grand Prize Winner and Gold Medalist in Piano, performs “Totentanz, S. 126” by Franz Liszt.

“The night was filled with so many memorable moments,” said Susie Moore Pokorski, YTA President/CEO. “I loved seeing the creative approach guests took to our “jeans to jewels” dress code, from cowboy boots and hats to all-out Texas bling. It was wonderful to see people enjoying the music and food, laughing, and most of all, coming together to support emerging classical musicians.

Classical music competition finalists applaud for grand prize winner,
The 2024 Young Texas Artists Music Competition finalists applaud Grand Prize winner and Gold Medalist in Piano Daeun Han (center, blue dress). Photo by Dave Clements.

“And then, when our competition finalists performed, they just awed the audience,” Pokorski added. “There’s something so moving about seeing the next generation of top classical talent take their place under the spotlight and show what they can do.”

Rachel Jimenez won Young Texas Artists’ Gold Medal in Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar and the Audience Choice Award. Photo by Dave Clements.

The three-day Young Texas Artists Music Competition, under the leadership of Artistic Director Dr. Emelyne Bingham, saw a record 96 applicants, and 70 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.

Performer poses with his cello
Cellist Maximus Gurath, Young Texas Artists’ Gold Medalist in Strings. Photo by Dave Clements.

The March 9 finalists’ concert took place at the historic and acoustically acclaimed Crighton Theatre in the Downtown Conroe Cultural District. The program featured a statewide and international lineup of artists.

YTA’s 2024 Grand Prize winner was Daeun Han, a pianist from South Korea who has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas and an Artist Diploma from Indiana University. Han also was named YTA’s Gold Medalist in Piano for her performance of “Totentanz, S. 126” by Franz Liszt. She won a total of $10,000.

Additional Gold Medal winners were cellist Maximus Gurath, Strings Division, an undergraduate student at Rice University, who performed “Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85,” by Edward Elgar.

Saxophonist Rachel Jimenez, Gold Medalist in Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division, is an undergraduate at Sam Houston State University. She performed “Divertimento” by Roger Boutry.

Soprano Krista Renée Pape, Voice Division, who has a Master of Music degree from University of Houston, sang “O zittre nicht” from Die Zauberflöte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The Gold Medalists received $5,000 each, and Jimenez, also the Audience Choice Award winner, received an additional $3,000.

Young woman singing in classical music competition
Mezzo-soprano Joanne Evans, YTA’s 2024 Silver Medalist in Voice. Photo by Dave Clements.

Silver Medals went to Xin Cui, Piano Division, who has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas; cellist Claire Druffner, Strings Division, an undergraduate at Rice University; mezzo-soprano Joanne Evans, Voice Division, who has a master’s degree from Bard College Conservatory of Art; and tuba player Roberto Gaitan, Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division, an undergraduate at Sam Houston State University. The Silver Medalists received $3,000 each.

YTA honored two long-time volunteers during its March 9 events. Joyce Musselman, YTA’s 2024 Honorary Gala Chair, received the YTA Inspiring Excellence Award during the Finalists’ Concert & Awards program. And Lyn Howard, who leads the live auction at Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue each year, received a special plaque during the gala.

The Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala raises money for the nonprofit’s annual music competition and career development program.

Major donors in 2024 included Dr. Douglas and Carol Aycock; the City of Conroe, VisitConroe.org; Nancy Dossey; Carol Fletcher; Annette and Ken Hallock; Lynda and Dan Kain; Ron and Myra Liston; Texas Commission on the Arts; UBS Financial Services, and Sue and Joe Warren, along with three anonymous donors.

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