Fans and patrons of the 29th annual Young Texas Artists Music Competition (YTA) filled the Crighton Theatre on Saturday, March 9 to see eight talented finalists perform at the YTA Finalists’ Concert & Awards and to learn the judges’ favorites. A+C contributor and Classical 91.7FM/Houston Public Radio DJ, Chris Johnson, served as Master of Ceremonies.

The concert followed a successful gala and auction held earlier in the evening, chaired by Marge and Steve Hayward. The fundraiser, “Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue,” was held in a Texas-sized tent next to the theatre, including a fun-filled auction led by Lyn Howard and sightings of Bach and Beethoven in powdered wigs as well as a tribute to long-time supporters Sandra and Jerry Streater.

At the concert, which is presented each year by the Montgomery County Performing Arts Society, $20,000 in cash prizes was awarded, along with performance prizes, to the top performers. A special honor also went to an audience favorite.

YTA chair Susie Pokorski explained that the event recognizes outstanding classical artists who are Texas residents or enrolled in a Texas music school. “This year’s event did not disappoint,” she said. “The concert performances were flawless and magical. We appreciate our sponsors and volunteers who are so generous with their time and financial support to make it all possible.”

The Grand Prize, which includes a solo performance with the Allen Philharmonic, went to violist Allyson Goodman of Houston. Goodman will also receive an invitation to perform with the Conroe Symphony Orchestra. She is studying for her master’s degree in music at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and performs as principal violist with the Shepherd School’s Chamber and Symphony Orchestras. Goodman also took home the Gold Medal in the Strings Division. She studies privately with James Dunham and also performs with Da Camera Young Artists.

Violist Allyson Goodman Photo by Dave Clements, DWC Photography

Violist Allyson Goodman
Photo by Dave Clements, DWC Photography

Pianist Andrew Staupe of Houston won the Gold in the Piano Division. He returned to the competition after winning in the YTA piano division in 2010. Staupe is a doctoral student in piano performance at the Shepherd School of Music.

Soprano Ashly Neumann of Houston took home the Gold in the Voice Division as well as the Audience Choice Award, which affords her an invitation to perform with the Montgomery County Choral Society. She is working toward a master’s degree in music at the University of Houston where she is a graduate teaching assistant. She is also a soprano intern and section leader at St. Michael Catholic Church in Houston.

Alto saxophone player Robert Eason of Bloomington, Indiana, won the Gold in the Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division. Eason earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Houston and is currently working on a master’s degree in saxophone performance at Indiana University.

Silver Medals went to Kenny Broberg, in the Piano Division; violinist Boson Mo in the Strings Division; mezzo-soprano Ewa Plonka in the Voice Division, and flutist Kayla Burggraf, of the Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division.

Tenor Keun Won Park, of San Marcos, received an Honorable Mention for his performance in the Voice Division.

Emelyne Bingham, Young Texas Artists artistic director, brought together an impressive panel of judges for the competition. Jurors were Larry Hutchinson, who teaches at Wayne State University and performs with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Richard C. Giangiulio, conductor and music director of the Allen Philharmonic; Daniel Cataneo, faculty member at Juilliard and Temple University; Ryan Taylor, who leads the administration of the artistic department at Arizona Opera; and Charles Asche, pianist and a member of the music faculty at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

“We were honored to welcome these esteemed music professionals to Young Texas Artists this year,” Bingham said. “Their expertise and reputation in the music community makes this a truly outstanding competition.”

Young Texas Artists Music Competition was created in 1983 by the Montgomery County Performing Arts Society in an effort to encourage excellence in young musicians and to further artistic growth throughout Texas. Judges are distinguished artists who have achieved acclaim in their respective disciplines. Candidates are generally pursuing a career in classical music and are either residents of Texas or enrolled in Texas music school. For more info visit youngtexasartists.org.