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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Young People's Concerto Competition

A Music Performance Competition for Talented Students

YPSCA holds an exciting annual event, the Young People's Concerto Competition (formerly called the School Music Auditions), for students in grades 7 through 12 in Minnesota and other Upper Midwest locations who are skilled at playing orchestral instruments or piano. Each contestant prepares a portion of a major work, such as a concerto movement, to perform from memory. At the Preliminary Auditions, performances are judged by professionals in each area: strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and keyboard.

Contestants who advance to the Finals will all ultimately receive a cash prize or scholarship; in a typical year, the total value of these prizes is more than $7,000. But only one finalist will claim the top prize – $1,500 plus the most coveted award of all, the opportunity to perform as soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra at a Young People’s Concert the following year. 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, contact us here, and join in the thrill of working with young musicians who make this competition a highlight of the musical season!

Finalists, all prizewinners, of the 2018 competition

The 2019 Young People's Concerto Competition

Applications for our 2019 Young People’s Concerto Competition are now CLOSED.

The Preliminary Competition will be held on Saturday, January 26, 2019, and the Finals on Sunday, February 3, both at Orchestra Hall. Visit this page again in early February to learn the results of the Competition!

Feel free to email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions or concerns.

Kudos to Our Past Winners


In February 2018, when YPSCA presented its 61st Young People’s Concerto Competition, the top winner was Emma Taggart, a 15-year-old pianist from Blaine who performed the opening movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. Taggart won the $1,500 award from the Edwin and Edith Norbert Fund and a chance to perform as soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra at future Young People’s Concerts. 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 includes 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.