Young People's Concerto Competition

Finalists, all prizewinners, of YPSCA’s 2020 Competition

Catherine Carson takes top honors at YPSCA’s 63rd Annual Concerto Competition

On March 8, 2020, audience members in Orchestra Hall felt the electricity of great music, brilliantly performed, as ten outstanding young musicians competed in the final round of YPSCA’s Concerto Competition. Violinist Catherine Carson, age 17, won with a performance of the first movement of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor that brought her both the top monetary award, $1,500 from the Edwin and Edith Norberg Fund, and the opportunity to perform as soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra in Young People’s Concerts on March 10 and 11, 2021. Catherine, who lives in Northfield, is an 12th-grader at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault and studies violin with Sally O’Reilly of Minneapolis.

In addition to the top honor won by Catherine Carson, each Finalist received at least one award:

  • Izaiah Cheeran, oboe, 14: the Edwin Norberg Award
  • Joyce Zhao, violin, 17: the Edith Norberg Award
  • Catherine Carson, violin, 17: the Claire Givens Violins Award
  • Orion Kim, piano, 14: the Schmitt Music Award
  • Jacob Taggart, piano, 13: the Margaret Ankeny Award
  • Joseph Caswell, piano, 16: the Bonnie & Donn McLellan Award
  • Dennis Eum, cello, 15: the Karen Lundmark Holmes Award
  • Derek Hwang, cello, 17: the David Colwell Award
  • Clara Belle Wrolstad, piano, 14: the Judith and David Ranheim Award
  • Jacob Taggart, piano, 13: the Karin Erickson Memorial Prize
  • Tasha Piyabongkarn, piano, 14: the Minneapolis Music Teachers Forum Award

Please join us in congratulating all the winners, and in thanking the generous donors of this year’s awards, which collectively totaled $7,400. We also thank our judges for the Finals: Minnesota Orchestra Violist Ken Freed, University of Minnesota School of Music Director and Pianist Michael Kim, and Violist Conor O’Brien; and judges for the Preliminary Audition: Michele Frisch, Felicity James, Ivan Konev, Ho-Yin Kwok, Garret McQueen and Paul Shaw.

Last but not least, kudos to our volunteers who committed countless hours to planning, managing and performing the myriad tasks required for the Preliminary and Final rounds of the Competition to run smoothly. Because of their work, YPSCA’s Competition goes beyond supporting young people’s involvement with the Minnesota Orchestra and the music it performs – it helps shape the careers of top musicians of the future. Our heartfelt thanks to all who support YPSCA!

A Music Performance Competition for Talented Students

YPSCA’s 64th Annual Concerto Competition will be held in March, 2021. The Preliminary Round will be on Saturday, March 6, 2021 at the Saint Paul Conservatory of Music, 1524 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul Minnesota. The Final Round will be at Orchestra Hall on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

The online Competition application form can be found here.

Detailed guidelines for students can be found here.

If the pandemic does not allow an in-person competition, the Preliminary Round will be conducted via unedited video submission. A decision will be made by February 12, 2021 and communicated to all applicants.

Students in grades 7 through 12 in Minnesota and other Upper Midwest locations who are skilled at playing orchestral instruments or piano compete for the opportunity to perform with the Minnesota Orchestra at a Young People’s Concert in the following season. Cash prizes are also awarded to Finalists; in a typical year, the total value of these prizes is more than $7,000.

Each contestant prepares a portion of a major work, such as a concerto movement, to perform from memory. Performances are judged by professional musicians specializing in strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and keyboard. For the Finals, held on the Orchestra Hall stage, YPSCA welcomes members of the public to attend and to witness the riveting performances of these extraordinary young musicians

Hard-working YPSCA volunteers carry out myriad tasks to ensure that the competition is a success from start to finish. They prepare announcements, review applications, select judges, handle registration, escort contestants to their warm-up and audition rooms, announce and time the performances, organize hospitality – and much more. If you'd like to be involved, please write to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and join in the thrill of working with young musicians who make this competition a highlight of the musical season!

Kudos to Our Past Winners


In February 2019, our Competition winner was Nita Qiu, a 16-year-old pianist from Woodbury, who performed the second and third movements of Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto. She was scheduled to appear with the Orchestra in Young People’s Concerts on March 18 & 19, 2020, but those concerts were unfortunately canceled due to the pandemic. Orchestra staff is working with Ms. Qiu to reschedule her performance for the 2020-2021 season. Nita is an 11th-grade student at River Ridge in Eagan and studies piano with Dr. Joseph Zins of Saint Paul.


In February 2018, our Competition winner was Emma Taggart, a 15-year-old pianist from Blaine, performing the opening movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. She is scheduled to appear with the Orchestra in two concert sets in spring of 2019, performing Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals in March and a movement of the Grieg A-minor Piano Concerto in May. She also won the Minnesota Music Teachers Forum award, which included a performance opportunity and a grant of $200. Taggart, a 10th-grader at St. Agnes High School in St. Paul, studies with Dr. Reid Smith of Dellwood.


Cellist Nygel Witherspoon won the Young People’s Concerto Competition in January 2017, performing the first movement of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto. At the time Witherspoon, of Minneapolis, was a 10th-grader at Connections Academy who studied with David Holmes of St. Louis Park. Witherspoon appeared with the Orchestra several times during the 2017-18 season, including in Young People’s Concerts in October and May.


In January 2016, a clarinetist took home the highest Concerto Competition prize. Anders Peterson, then a sophomore at Northfield High and a student of Dr. Jun Qian, chose Weber’s Concertino for Clarinet for his winning performance. In addition to his monetary award, he earned the privilege of performing with the Minnesota Orchestra at a Young People’s Concert in February 2017.


The 2015 winner was pianist Zhen Tu, then a 10th-grader at Eagan High School, who was the featured soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra at Young People’s Concerts in October 2015 and February 2016.

Here are all the talented performers who have won the Concerto Competition in the past.