Young Texas Artists to Showcase Exceptional Musicians at Finalists’ Concert & Awards

Woman in red gown sings at Young Texas Artists Music Competition

Audience members will have an opportunity to experience remarkable performances by emerging classical musicians during the Young Texas Artists (YTA) Music Competition Finalists’ Concert & Awards Saturday, March 9.

The program, set to begin at 7:30 p.m., will take place at Crighton Theatre, 234 N. Main Street, in the Downtown Conroe Cultural District.

Woman in black gown plays piano at Young Texas Artists Music Competition
Ayane Nakajima, YTA’s 2023 Gold Medalist in the Piano Division. Photo by Dave Clements.

“It’s interesting, during YTA’s annual gala — just before the concert — there’s a friendly, playful atmosphere. But during the concert, there’s a much different feel: People are moved,” said Susie Moore Pokorski, President/CEO of YTA. “Audience members are stunned by the tremendous talent of our contestants and the power of their performances, and they respond with great enthusiasm and admiration for these young artists.

Woman in red sings at Young Texas Artists Music Competition
Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Doche, YTA’s 2023 Grand Prize Winner and Gold Medalist in Voice. Photo by Dave Clements.

“Our finalists, in turn, are extremely appreciative of the audience’s response,” Pokorski added. “In fact, when we ask our alumni how competing with us impacted them, nearly all of them tell us how much they valued the opportunity to perform in front of a live audience.”

Serving as the concert’s master of ceremonies will be St. John Flynn, former Arts and Culture Director for Houston Public Media. Flynn currently is a writer, speaker and arts and culture consultant.

The Young Texas Artists Music Competition, an Official Music Competition of the State of Texas, is open to classical artists ages 18-30 (20-32 for Voice) who are Texas residents or affiliated with a Texas music school.

Man plays marimba at the Young Texas Artists Music Competition.
Marimba player Mateo Seghezzo, YTA’s 2023 Gold Medalist in the Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp, and Guitar Division. Photo by Dave Clements.

It is the only classical music competition in Texas offering four performance divisions: Voice; Piano; Strings; and Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar. Contestants vie for a share of $40,000 in monetary prizes, along with career mentoring and performance opportunities.

YTA’s preliminary competition rounds, open to YTA donors only, will take place March 7-9 at the Crighton Theatre, where this year’s donors can also attend the opening reception for “The Unexpected,” an exhibit featuring works by young Texas visual artists. The exhibit is being presented and curated by Joseph Staley.

The competition line-up is Strings, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, March 7; Orchestral Instruments, 9-11 a.m. Friday, March 8; Voice, 1-5 p.m. March 8; and Piano, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9.

During the finalists’ concert March 9, the top two finalists from each category will perform, and gold and silver medals will be awarded for each division. YTA will present the Grand Prize and Audience Choice Award as well.

“Our goal is to encourage young artists,” YTA Artistic Director Emelyne Bingham said. “We do that through performance opportunities, through cash prizes, and through the helpful commentary contestants receive from expert judges in their field.”

This year’s distinguished judges include:

Miyoko Lotto, pianist, is on the faculty at New York University, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Perlman Music Program. Her students have won prizes at such major international piano competitions as the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and the International Chopin Competition. Lotto has performed across the U.S. and has given Master Classes in the U.S., Asia and Europe. She has served on the panels of several international competitions and worked as music editor/consultant on the documentary “Barenboim on Beethoven” which aired on PBS’ “Great Performances.”

Brian Luce, flutist, is a Professor of Flute at The University of Arizona and a Yamaha Performing Artist. He has been principal flute of the Champaign-Urbana, Midland-Odessa and Johnstown symphony orchestras and performed with numerous ensembles and chamber orchestras. His solo performances have been broadcast throughout the U.S., and his recordings are recommended references by music education associations including the ABRSM. Luce’s Albany Records Super Audio CD (SACD), “Music of the Superpowers: Sputnik, Spies, and the Space Race,” has been lauded by The American Record Guide.

Eric Mitchko is general director of the North Carolina Opera, which was just getting its start when he arrived in 2010. Under his leadership, the company has offered a wide range of repertoire and presented local premieres of such composers as Wagner, Verdi and Tchaikovsky. In addition to his work with North Carolina Opera, Mitchko has served as the director of administration for The Atlantic Opera and as vice president of Columbia Artists Management in New York, where he managed singers and conductors. Mitchko also lectures on opera, has hosted classical radio programs and written music criticism.

Kay Stern, violinist and concertmaster of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, has been featured on PBS’s “Live from Lincoln Center,” CNN’s “Women Today,” and Minnesota Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.” Stern has lent her talents to such mediums as film soundtracks, television, video games and radio. As the former first violinist and founding member of the Lark String Quartet in New York, she performed and gave master classes throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. She has also been a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Music Academy of the West.

David Torns is the associate conductor and principal pops conductor of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and leads the Baton Rouge Symphony and the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker. Torns is also education conductor for Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and music director of the Louisiana Youth Orchestra. He has appeared with such academic orchestras as the Vanderbilt University Symphony, the Nashville Youth Symphony, West Virginia University Symphony, North Carolina School for the Arts “Musica Piccola” Orchestra, and the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra. 

The Finalists’ Concert & Awards is one of two major YTA events taking place March 9. The Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala begins at 5 p.m., and gala reservations include the concert.

Events can be attended separately as well. Concert admission is $30 for adults and $16 for students.

To purchase concert tickets, visit

YTA’s major donors as of February 27 are Dr. Douglas and Carol Aycock; the City of Conroe,; Nancy Dossey; Carol Fletcher; Annette and Ken Hallock; Lynda and Dan Kain; Ron and Myra Liston; Texas Commission on the Arts; and UBS Financial Services, along with an anonymous donor.

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