Audiences will experience classical music performances by immensely gifted young musicians Saturday, March 12, when the Young Texas Artists Music Competition culminates in the 2022 Finalists’ Concert & Awards.
The program, set to begin at 7:30 p.m., will take place at Crighton Theatre, 234 N. Main St. in downtown Conroe.
“After nearly every concert and awards program, someone approaches me in awe of the inspiring talent they just saw and heard,” said Susie Moore Pokorski, President/CEO of Young Texas Artists (YTA), which presents the competition. “And I understand: If you’re new to our audience, it’s difficult to anticipate the level of excellence our competition draws. It’s that talent, and the passion of our young competing artists, that drives our ongoing commitment to being a source of encouragement, support and growth opportunities.”
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.
It is the only classical music competition in Texas offering four performance divisions: Voice; Piano; Strings; and Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar. Contestants this year are vying for a share of $40,000 in monetary prizes—double the amount offered at the last competition—along with career mentoring and performance opportunities.
Serving as master of ceremonies at the Finalists’ Concert & Awards program will be St. John Flynn, former Arts and Culture Director 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 Music, which is still available on YTA’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/YoungTexasArtists/videos) and YouTube channel (https://bit.ly/3KzFdhF).
Baritone Michael Mayes, YTA’s 2002 Gold Medal Winner in Voice and an internationally acclaimed opera singer, will be the guest of honor at the Finalists’ Concert & Awards and the Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala taking place earlier that evening.
Mayes, who was raised in Cut and Shoot in eastern Montgomery County, has performed leading roles with major companies, stunning audiences across the United States and Europe. During the YTA awards program, Mayes will sing and share insights from his career.
“Hearing Michael, whether he is describing the power of opera or performing an aria, is an electric experience,” Pokorski said. “We know audience members will be mesmerized by his story and his magnetic stage presence.”
After the concert, at around 9:45 p.m., the festivities continue with the YTA Afterparty, sponsored by the Conroe Service League. The night will feature another performance by Mayes, along with more live Texas music, desserts and champagne toasts to the competition winners.
Both the Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala and the Afterparty will take place in the YTA’s Grand Pavilion in front of Crighton Theatre.
The gala, which begins at 5 p.m., features a Texas barbecue dinner, dancing to Texas swing music and a live auction.
YTA also welcomes the public to the preliminary rounds of its competition, which take place March 10-12. Attendance is free. The lineup includes Strings division preliminaries at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 10; Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp, and Guitar at 9 a.m. Friday, March 11; Voice at 2:30 p.m. March 11; and Piano at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 12. These rounds will all take place at the Crighton Theatre.
During the finalists’ concert, 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 primary goal is to help up-and-coming classical musicians begin their careers,” YTA Artistic Director Emelyne Bingham said. “Not only do our young artists benefit from the performance opportunities and prize packages we offer, but also from the valuable critiques 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:
Miyoko Lotto, pianist, is on the faculty at 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 U.S. and has given numerous Master Classes in Japan, the U.S., Germany, Israel, China and Spain. She has served as juror on the panels of several international competitions and also has worked with Daniel Barenboim as music editor and consultant on the documentary “Barenboim on Beethoven” which aired on PBS’ Great Performances in 2007. Most recently, she was the moderator for the documentary, “Mahler: The New York Years,” about renowned opera conductor Gustav Mahler.
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 Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Luce made the premiere recording of Anthony Plog’s Concerto for Flute and Wind Ensemble with the University of Arizona Wind Ensemble. He also has given recitals and master classes throughout the U.S., Europe, and Korea.
Bradley Mansell, a cellist, is a member of the Nashville Symphony and an award-winning educator. As a member of the Nashville Symphony, he has recorded for the Naxos, Sony Classics and Decca recording 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,” which was commissioned by the Tennessee Music Teachers Association and dedicated to him. As a faculty member with Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, Mansell has been named to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities and is a recipient of the Outstanding Teacher award from the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts.
Roger Pines, a familiar voice on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts’ “Opera Quiz” since the 2005-06 season, recently completed his 26-year tenure at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Among the many roles he filled at Lyric were dramaturg, commentator for the company’s live opening-night broadcasts (2010-18), program editor, pre-performance lecturer, and special lecturer/consultant for the company’s young artist program. Pines previously held positions at San Diego Opera, The Dallas Opera and Glimmerglass Opera. He regularly writes articles and reviews for prestigious opera publications. He also has written programs for every major North American opera company and program notes for CDs on seven major labels.
Maria Schleuning, violinist, has been a member of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra since 1994 and has been a featured soloist with it and numerous other U.S. 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 solo violin work written for her as a gift by composer Augusta Read Thomas. Schleuning is an active chamber musician, and she has performed at festivals throughout the United States and Europe. She also has recorded with the Continuum contemporary music ensemble in New York and with Voices of Change and the Walden Piano Quartet.
YTA this year also is hosting the Young Texas Artists Fine Arts Weekend. Set for March 10-13, the weekend will showcase emerging Texas talent in dance, visual art and poetry.
Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue reservations include all of the weekends’ programming. Events can be attended separately as well, including the Finalists’ Concert & Awards: Concert admission is $30 for adults and $16 for students.
Tickets are available at https://www.ytamc.com/bach-beethoven-barbecue.
Young Texas Artists’ major sponsors this year include the City of Conroe, Carol and Dr. Douglas Aycock, Annette and Ken Hallock, Lana and Bill Hazlett and two anonymous donors.