Young Texas Artists (YTA) promised an unforgettable come back for 2022, and it delivered in a major way. After two years of COVID-19-related cancellations, the performing arts organization delighted audiences with a Finalists’ Concert & Awards presentation packed with classical music talent; a sensational Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala; and — for the first time — events showcasing emerging artists in visual art, dance and poetry during the second weekend of March.
“The excitement was palpable throughout the weekend,” YTA President/CEO Susie Moore Pokorski said. “Everyone was thrilled to be back, and they’re still elated. I’ve been getting a constant stream of calls, messages and texts from people who loved what they experienced. They’re already looking forward to 2023, and I feel the same way.”
The three-day Young Texas Artists Music Competition, under the leadership of Artistic Director Emelyne Bingham, saw nearly 70 talented classical musicians from Texas and around the world vying 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.
During the March 12 finalists’ concert at Crighton Theatre in Conroe, audiences responded to the contestants’ performances with standing thunderous applause.
“The musicians’ dedication to excellence is so inspiring, and I’m always over the moon when audiences show enthusiasm for the artists’ hard work and abilities,” Pokorski said. “The level of talent is extraordinary; it always floors people.”
YTA’s 2022 Grand Prize winner was French-Russian violinist Clara Saitkoulov, who is pursuing her master’s degree at Rice University. Saitkoulov also won the Gold Medal in Strings with her performance of Karol Szymanowski’s “Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 35.” Saitkoulov won a total of $10,000.
Additional Gold Medal winners were: Seolyeong Jeong, Piano Division, Rice University; Brigit Fitzgerald, bassoon, Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division, The University of Texas at Austin; and Bronwyn White, soprano, Voice Division, Purchase College Conservatory of Music-State University of New York (also YTA’s 2019 Silver Medalist in Voice). The Gold Medalists received $5,000 each, and the Jeong, also the Audience Choice Award winner, received an additional $3,000.
Silver medals went to Josh Liu, violin, Strings Division, The University of Texas at Austin; Guobi “Malcolm” Liu, Piano Division, The University of Kansas; William Yeh, flute, Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division, Rice University; and Sarah Dyer, contralto, Voice Division, University of Houston. Each Silver Medalist received $3,000.
Finalists’ concert audiences also were treated to phenomenal performances by baritone Michael Mayes, YTA’s 2002 Gold Medal Winner in Voice and an internationally acclaimed opera singer. Mayes was the guest of honor at the finalists’ concert as well as the Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala, which took place earlier that evening.
The gala is a long-time YTA tradition that raises money for YTA’s music competition, but this year, it was also an opportunity to celebrate the organization’s come back.
“In some ways, it felt very familiar when we gathered in our Grand Pavilion in downtown Conroe and enjoyed the live Texas swing music by Bill Mock & His Highway 105 Band, the auction, the delicious barbecue like we have in the past, but the jubilation about our return was unique and very special,” Pokorski said.
The gala co-chairs were Terry Husbands Giles, Allyson Ayton and Mimi Devereaux. Mimi Sadler was the dinner chair, and Garlaine Kelly was the auction chair.
Also unique was the weekend of activities YTA lined up in downtown Conroe to support young artists in multiple disciplines: modern art, contemporary dance and poetry.
“Guests were enthralled with the talent that the organizers lined up: young people from Texas who are tremendously gifted,” Pokorski said.
The Audience Choice Award winners were:
Contemporary Dance: Cameron Edwards, The Ailey Studios, first; and Mimi Rosepink, who has a bachelor’s degree in dance from Marymount Manhattan College, second
Poetry: Adriana Winkelmayer, 14, a Houston high school student
Visual Art: Sid Ylagan, a graphic designer, muralist and digital artist from The Woodlands
The YTA weekend’s team included LuAnne Carter, director of the Contemporary Dance Showcase; Dede Fox, director of the Young Texas Poets Showcase; and Joseph Staley, curator of the Fine Art Invitational Show.
YTA’s major sponsors this year include the City of Conroe, Carol and Dr. Douglas Aycock, Annette and Ken Hallock, Lynda and Dan Kain and two 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.