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Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition

About the Competition

The 2017 Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition is open to all Texas Music Festival Orchestra Fellows. All finalists will receive a cash prize and a medal.  Subject to approval of the conductor and the availability of orchestral parts, the 2017 winner will perform with the Festival Orchestra under the baton of Brett Mitchell at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion in The Woodlands on Friday, June 23, 2017 at 8 p.m. and also at the Moores Opera House on Saturday, June 24, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.


Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition Requirements

  • All competitors must pay the $25 non-refundable registration fee to compete (indicate on the TMF Orchestra Fellow Information Form).
  • Piece must be no longer than 15 minutes in total, including all full orchestral tuttis. Competitors may only compete with a standard concerto, concerto movement, or solo work for instrument and orchestra. Competitors may NOT compete with any work that does not meet these specifications.
  • Work must be performed from memory at all levels of adjudication.
  • Competitors must bring, and provide, a piano score for accompanist for the Preliminary Round. Piano score must be an orchestral reduction—no chamber music allowed.
  • Preliminary Round: Thursday, June 8, 2017, 7 p.m. Contestants will only be allowed an 8-12 minute performance time.
  • Final Round: Sunday, June 11, 2017, 2 p.m. Final Round is open to the public, and the full work will be performed.
  • TMF reserves the right to reject any request to compete with repertoire that does not meet the requirements listed above

First Place - 2016

Juan Esteban Martinez, clarinet
Francaix Clarinet Concerto, Movements III & IV

Photo of Juan Esteban Martinez

Born in Colombia and raised in the Dominican Republic, Juan Esteban Martinez is currently on his second year at the Peabody Institute where he study with Anthony McGill, Principal Clarinetist of New York Philharmonic. At the age of 15 he debuted as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic and two years later he was one of the winners of the Caldas’ Young Artist Competition in Colombia performing with the Caldas Symphony Orchestra. He was a founder fellow of both the Latin-American Wind Orchestra and the Iberoamerican Orchestra. Juan was also the recipient of the Sidney Jensen Memorial Award for outstanding clarinet performance at Peabody.


Second Place & Audience Favorite Prize - 2016

Tomasz Kowalczyk, marimba
Sejourne Marimba Concerto, Movements I & II

Photo of Tomasz Kowalczyk

Tomasz Kowalczyk is a versatile musician who feels equally enthusiastic about working as a soloist, a chamber musician and an orchestral performer. Mr. Kowalczyk presents solo recitals his native Poland, around Europe and United States. Focused on heightening the stature of percussion as a solo instrument, his performances often feature a combination of the established repertoire with transcriptions of J.S Bach’s masterpieces, as well as new works commissioned, or written for him. As a chamber musician, Mr. Kowalczyk performs a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Bartok to Reich. He is a founder of the Peabody Percussion Trio, he performed with members of eighth blackbird, and his collaboration with the legendary musician Leon Fleisher and Peabody Chamber Players on Gyorgy Ligeti’s chamber operas “Aventures” and “Nouvelles Aventures” brought him to the Perelman Theater of the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia, and subsequently to New York’s Kaufman Theater in the 92nd Street Y. Passionate about orchestral performance, Mr. Kowalczyk works as an extra percussionist with the Houston Symphony, was a fellow at the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood Music Center, and performed across the globe with the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra, Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, working under Pierre Boulez, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Peter Eotvos, Valery Gergiev, Pablo Heras-Casado, Fabio Luisi, Jun Maerkl, Yannick Nezet-Seguin and Simon Rattle. He succeeded in numerous international solo and chamber music competitions, including the first prize at the European Music Prize for the Youth International Marimba Competition in Münster, Germany. He was also a prize winner at the Yale Gordon concerto competition, the PAS (Percussive Arts Society) International Percussion Ensemble Competition and PAS International Solo Competition. Mr. Kowalczyk is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. He holds a Master’s Degree from Boston University, a Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music and a Bachelor of Music degree from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. His past and present teachers include: Alan Abel, Timothy Genis, Don Liuzzi, Matt Strauss, David Skidmore, Robert van Sice and Svetoslav Stoyanov.


Third Place - 2016 (TIE)

Sukyung Ahn, violin
Dvorak Violin Concerto in A Minor, Mvt. I

Born in Seoul, Korea, Sukyung Ahn graduated from Sunwha arts high school. She graduated from Seoul National University with Bachelor's degree, under Ju-young Baek. She was awarded with many prizes including Korean Chamber Orchestra competition, and Segye news music competiton. She had participated in Euro music festival, Great Mountains music festival and school, Sejong music festival and she also performed with Seoul Camerata Orchestra. She is currently pursuing a master's degree at Indiana University, studying with Mark Kaplan.


Johann Schuster, double bass
Vandal Concerto in D Major for Double Bass, Mvt. I

Photo of Johann Schuster

Born in Bloemfontein South Africa, bassist Johann Schuster was raised in a family of musicians. Upon finishing his high school diploma Johann moved to the U.S to attend the Interlochen Arts Academy, where he studied with Principal Bass of the Michigan Lyric Opera, Derek Weller. With a BMus degree in music performance, Johann graduated from The Boston Conservatory in 2014 where he studied with Boston Symphony bassist Benjamin Levy. Johann is currently finishing his second season as a bassist in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and frequently works with Chicago Symphony Bassists Alexander Hanna and Robert Kassinger. In the Fall of 2016 Johann will attend the DePaul University School of Music to pursue his Masters Degree under the tutelage of Robert Kassinger.


Finalists - 2016

Ahra Cho, violin
Saint-Saenz Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso

Ahra Cho

Ahra Cho, started playing the violin when she was 4 years old. She has performed with numerous orchestras including Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra as her debut at age 11 as well as Jeonju Philharmonic Orchestra, Korean Chamber Orchestra, Sejong soloists Concert. Studying with Ju-young Baek at the Seoul National University college of music, she won the concerto competition and she also have had a couple of recitals at Kumho art hall supported by culture foundation in Korea. Also, she took part and played in San Francisco International Music Festival and she performed solo recitals and chamber music in Vianden Music Festival in Luxembourg. She graduated from Seoul National University as an honor student at 2013. After graduating, she was invited to play solo and chamber concert at Music Festival in Zaragoza, Spain, In 2015, she won the classical Mozart string competition and has performed with MSM string orchestra. Also she won second prize in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell young artist competition at Texas Music Festival and She won first prize in the 2015 Duxbury Music Festival solo competition and concerto competition. She is currently a Master's degree candidate and scholarship recipient at the Manhattan School of Music, where she studies with Lucie Robert.


Mary O’Keefe
Strauss Oboe Concerto in D Major, Movements II & III

Photo of Mary O'keefe

Mary O’Keefe is a junior at the New England Conservatory, studying with Keisuke Wakao. She is dedicated to exploring social boundaries with music, organizing a performance of the second movement of Dvorak’s 9th Symphony for a concert honoring Black History Month with NEC’s African American Student Union. This past April, she performed a junior recital that functioned as a benefit concert, raising money for the Nature Conservancy's Adopt an Acre Foundation. Outside of NEC, Mary also performs with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Recent studies include work with Jan Eberle at the Chautauqua Music Festival and master-classes with Maurice Bourgue.


Kathryne Salo, flute
Griffes Poeme

Photo of Kathryne Salo

Kathryne Salo, a Miyazawa Emerging Artist, is a DMA candidate at Michigan State University. She has performed in venues from New Orleans Arena to Royal Festival Hall to St. John’s, Smith Square, with musicians including Ellis Marsalis, Frederick Fennell, and Sir Colin Davis. Kathryne holds the LRAM teaching diploma and worked as a graduate teaching assistant for four years. She earned degrees from Louisiana State University, the Royal Academy of Music, and University of Tennessee. Most recently, she won the MSU Concerto Competition and third prize at the Ervin Monroe Young Artist Competition.

Past Winners