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Young Texas Artists Presents Talented Classical Musicians at Finalists’ Concert & Awards

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TX – Extraordinarily gifted artists on the cusp of launching classical music careers will take the stage Saturday, March 11, when the Young Texas Artists Music Competition culminates in the 2023 Finalists Concert & Awards.

Clara Saitkoulov Young Texas Artists Music Competition
Violinist Clara Saitkoulov, the 2022 Young Texas Artists Grand Prize winner and Gold Medalist in the Strings Division. Photo by Dave Clements.

The program, set to begin at 7:30 p.m., will take place at Crighton Theatre, 234 N. Main Street, in the historic downtown cultural district of Conroe.

“Our Finalists’ Concert & Awards program is a moving experience for our competing artists and our audience members,” said Susie Moore Pokorski, President & CEO of Young Texas Artists (YTA). “For these emerging musicians, the opportunity to perform in front of a full house is an invaluable experience that significantly bolsters their confidence. And audience members are consistently awestruck by the caliber of the musicians who compete with us. Watching them on stage, they tell us, is nothing short of inspiring.”

Audience members this year will also experience a performance by guest of honor Anastasia Markina, Dallas Symphony pianist and YTA’s 2007 Grand Prize winner. Markina, born and raised in Saint Petersburg, Russia, has performed solo, orchestral and chamber music works in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Russia.




Serving as the concert’s master of ceremonies will be St. John Flynn, former Arts and Culture Director for Houston Public Media. Flynn currently is a writer, speaker and arts and culture consultant.

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 are vying for a share of $40,000 in monetary prizes, along with career mentoring and performance opportunities.

YTA’s preliminary competition rounds, also open to the public, will take place March 9-11. Attendance is free. The lineup includes Strings division preliminaries at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, March 9; Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar at 8:30 a.m. Friday, March 10; Voice at 2 p.m. March 10; and Piano at 8 a.m. Saturday, March 11. These rounds will all take place at the Crighton Theatre.

During the finalists’ concert on March 11, 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 competition is designed to help young, up-and-coming artists learn how to be professionals,” YTA Artistic Director Emelyne Bingham said. “Not only do contestants benefit from the experience of performing and the prize opportunities, but also from the invaluable feedback they receive from our expert panel of judges.”




This year’s distinguished judges include:

Jeremy Benson, flutist, is a professor of music at Jacksonville State University (JSU). He also serves as president of the Florida Flute Association. As an active soloist, chamber musician and adjudicator, Benson was awarded second prize at the 2021 Music International Grand Prix for Solo Artist Competition and named a first prize winner at the 2011 Alexander & Buono International Solo Competition at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

John Ellis, pianist, is an associate professor of piano and the director of graduate studies in piano pedagogy at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance where he also administers community and preparatory programs in piano as well as the class piano curriculum. He has recorded the piano music of African-American composer Arthur Cunningham and is working on a critical edition of his piano music.

Melissa Givens, soprano, is a faculty member at Pomona College and performs repertoire from the Baroque era through the 21st century. Performances include George Crumb’s “Ancient Voices of Children” and “Die Schöne Mullerin Report” by Tom Flaherty, with Pomona College faculty and guest artists, as well as Mahler’s “Symphony #4 (chamber version)” with the Greenbriar Consortium. Givens can also be heard on her CD, Let the Rain Kiss You.

Bradley Mansell, cellist, is an award-winning faculty member with Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University and a member of the Nashville Symphony. With the 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,” commissioned by the Tennessee Music Teachers Association and dedicated to him.

Diane Boyd Schultz, flutist and piccoloist, is a professor of flute at the School of Music at The University of Alabama. She established her career through solo and chamber performances in the U.S., Canada, France, the UK, Russia, Romania and Austria. Schultz also has performed with the Dallas Bach Society and the Alabama, Terre Haute, Tuscaloosa, Chattanooga, Shreveport and Richardson Symphony Orchestras. She is a prizewinner of several national and international competitions.




The Finalists’ Concert & Awards program this year also will celebrate Pokorski’s 25th year at the helm of YTA. The organization will be honoring volunteers who helped her get started and are still around: those who began volunteering for the organization in 1998 or earlier.

The program is one of two major YTA events taking place March 11. The Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala begins at 5 p.m., and gala reservations include the Finalists’ Concert & Awards.

Events can be attended separately as well. Concert admission is $30 for adults and $16 for students.

To purchase concert tickets, visit

YTA’s major donors as of March 3 include Dr. Douglas and Carol Aycock, City of Conroe, Nancy Dossey, Annette and Ken Hallock, Bill and Lana Hazlett, Lynda and Dan Kain, Janie and Richard Kobes, Myra and Ron Liston, Gaby and John Tryon and four anonymous donors.

Young Texas Artists, founded in 1983, is a one-of-a-kind nonprofit presenter of music competitions and events, career development programs and cultural enrichment outreach. The nationally acclaimed Young Texas Artists Music Competition and the YTA Career Development Program provide professional guidance, mentoring and highly sought performance experience. An Official Music Competition of the State of Texas, it is one of the few competitions in the nation with four performance divisions: Voice; Piano; Strings; and Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar. The YTA contest is open to classical artists, ages 18-30 (20-32 for Voice), who are Texas residents or affiliated with a Texas music school. Over the years, Young Texas Artists has helped produce many distinguished professionals who have gone on to join orchestras, opera companies, universities and music schools around the world.

Affiliations: Young Texas Artists is a member of the Greater Conroe Arts Alliance, the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Cultural Trust and Texans for the Arts.

Young Texas Artists, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization founded and headquartered in Conroe, Montgomery County.