Young Texas Artists Features Rising Stars in Classical Music at Finalist Concert and Awards

Opera song

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TX – Audiences will experience classical music performances by extremely gifted young musicians on Saturday, March 12, when the Texas Young Artists Music Competition culminates with the 2022 finalists concert and awards.

PHOTO: Artem Kuznetsov performs at the 2019 Young Artists of Texas Finalists Concert and Awards. Kuznetsov won the Grand Prix and the Gold Medal for piano. He was invited to perform with the Texas Medical Center Orchestra in May. Photo by Dave Clements.

The program, which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., will take place at the Crighton Theater, 234 N. Main St. in downtown Conroe.

“After almost every concert and awards program, someone approaches me in awe of the inspiring talent they just saw and heard,” said Susie Moore Pokorski, President and CEO of Young Texas. Artists (YTA), which presents the competition. “And I get it: if you’re new to our audience, it’s hard to anticipate the level of excellence our competitors are attracting. It is this talent and passion of our young competing artists that drives our continued commitment to be a source of encouragement, support and opportunity for growth.

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The Young Texas Artists Music Competition, an official music competition of the State of Texas, is open to classical artists ages 18-30 (voice ages 20-32) residing in Texas or affiliated with a music school from Texas.

It is the only classical music competition in Texas offering four performance divisions: Voice; Piano; strings; and winds, brass, percussion, harp and guitar. This year’s contestants are vying for a share of $40,000 in prize money – double the amount offered in the last contest – as well as career and performance mentoring opportunities.

The emcee for the finalists’ Concert & Awards program will be St. John Flynn, former director of arts and culture for Houston Public Media. Flynn is a writer, speaker, and arts and culture consultant, and he recently served as producer and host of YTA’s four-part video series, YTA Insights – A journey into the world of classical musicwhich is still available on the YTA Facebook page (www.facebook.com/YoungTexasArtists/videos) and YouTube channel (https://bit.ly/3KzFdhF).

Baritone Michael Mayes, 2002 YTA Gold Medalist for Voice and an internationally acclaimed opera singer, will be the guest of honor at the Finalists Concert and Awards and the Bach, Beethoven and BBQ Gala to be held over early in the evening.

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Mayes, who grew up in Cut and Shoot in eastern Montgomery County, played leading roles in major corporations, wowing audiences across the United States and Europe. During the YTA awards program, Mayes will sing and share ideas about her career.

“Hearing Michael, whether he’s describing the power of opera or performing an aria, is an electric experience,” Pokorski said. “We know audiences will be mesmerized by her story and magnetic stage presence.”

After the concert, around 9:45 p.m., the festivities continue with the YTA Afterparty, sponsored by the Conroe Service League. The evening will feature another performance by Mayes, as well as live Texas music, desserts and champagne toasts for the contest winners.

The Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue Gala and Afterparty will take place in the YTA Grand Pavilion in front of the Crighton Theatre.

The gala, which begins at 5 p.m., includes a Texas barbecue dinner, dancing to Texas swing music and a live auction.

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YTA is also welcoming the public to the preliminary rounds of its contest, which runs from March 10-12. Participation is free. The lineup includes the Strings division prelims at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 10; winds, brass, percussion, harp and guitar at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 11; Voice at 2:30 p.m. on March 11; and Piano at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 12. These rounds will all take place at the Crighton Theatre.

At the finalists’ concert, the top two finalists in each category will perform and gold and silver medals will be awarded for each division. YTA will also present the Grand Prize and the Audience Prize.

“Our main goal is to help promising classical musicians start their careers,” said YTA artistic director Emelyne Bingham. “Our young artists benefit not only from the performance opportunities and awards we provide, but also from the valuable reviews they receive from our judges, all respected leaders in their musical genres.”

All of this year’s judges have judged YTA competitions in the past and are familiar with YTA’s mission. They include the following:

  • Lotto Miyoko, pianist, is on the faculty of New York University, the Manhattan School of Music and the Perlman Music Program. She completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at the Juilliard School. Lotto has performed across the United States and has given numerous Master Classes in Japan, the United States, Germany, Israel, China and Spain. She has served as a jury member for several international competition juries and also worked with Daniel Barenboim as music editor and consultant on the documentary “Barenboim on Beethoven” broadcast on PBS. Great performance in 2007. More recently, she was the moderator of the documentary “Mahler: The New York Years”, about the famous opera conductor Gustav Mahler.

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  • Brian Luce, flautist, is professor of flute at the University of Arizona and Yamaha Performing Artist. He has been Principal Flute of the Champaign-Urbana, Midland-Odessa and Johnstown Symphony Orchestras and has performed with numerous ensembles and chamber orchestras. His solo performances have been broadcast across the United States and his recordings are recommended references by music education associations, including the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Luce made the first recording of Anthony Plog’s Concerto for Flute and Wind Ensemble with the University of Arizona Wind Ensemble. He has also given recitals and master classes in the United States, Europe and Korea.
  • Bradley Mansell, cellist, member of the Nashville Symphony and award-winning educator. As a member of the Nashville Symphony, he recorded for the Naxos, Sony Classics and Decca labels. In 1995, he performed the premiere of “Aurora” for solo cello by Nashville composer Lee Gannon, as well as Gannon’s “Sonata for Cello and Piano” by Gannon, commissioned by the Tennessee Music Teachers Association and dedicated to him. As a faculty member at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, Mansell was named to Who’s Who of American Colleges and Universities and received the Outstanding Teacher Award from the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts.
  • Roger Pins, a familiar voice on “Opera Quiz” from Metropolitan Opera broadcasts since the 2005-06 season, recently completed his 26-year tenure at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Among the many roles he filled at Lyric were playwright, commentator for the company’s opening night live broadcasts (2010-18), editor, pre-performance speaker and special speaker/consultant for the company’s young artists program. Pines previously held positions at San Diego Opera, Dallas Opera and Glimmerglass Opera. He regularly writes articles and reviews for prestigious opera publications. He has also written programs for every major North American opera company and program notes for CDs on seven major record labels.
  • Maria Schleuning, violinist, has been a member of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra since 1994 and has been a featured soloist with it and many other American orchestras. She has been a member of the Voices of Change Modern Music Ensemble since 1996 and artistic director since 2009. Schleuning has premiered many new works, including “Dream Catcher,” a work for solo violin written for her as a gift by composer Augusta Read Thomas. Schleuning is an active chamber musician and has performed at festivals across the United States and Europe. She has also recorded with the Continuum contemporary music ensemble in New York and with Voices of Change and the Walden Piano Quartet.

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This year, YTA is also hosting the Young Artists of Texas Fine Arts Weekend. From March 10-13, the weekend will showcase emerging Texas talent in dance, visual arts and poetry.

Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue bookings include all weekend programming. Events can also be attended separately, including the concert and runner-up prizes: concert admission is $30 for adults and $16 for students.

Tickets are available at https://www.ytamc.com/bach-beethoven-barbecue.

Major sponsors of Young Texas Artists this year include the City of Conroe, Carol and Dr. Douglas Aycock, Annette and Ken Hallock, Lana and Bill Hazlett, and two anonymous donors.

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 YTA career development program provides professional guidance, mentorship, and highly sought-after performance experience. An Official State of Texas Musical Contest, it is one of the few competitions in the country with four performance divisions: Voice; Piano; strings; and winds, brass, percussion, harp and guitar. The YTA competition is open to classical artists between the ages of 18-30 (20-32 for voice), 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.

Young Texas Artists is a member of the Greater Conroe Arts Alliance, Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce, Texas Cultural Trust, and Texans for the Arts. Young Texas Artists, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded and based in Conroe, Montgomery County.

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