Otherwise a picturesque vignette of charming Texas towns of yore, the Conroe downtown square plays host to a yearly classical music feud that has become an essential see-and-be-seen gathering on the social and arts calendars of its denizens.
The 29th annual Young Texas Artists Music Competition, presented by the Montgomery County Performing Art Society and chaired by Susie Pokorski, dished out $20,000 in prizes and performance opportunities to a coterie of emerging musicians at the finals concert, held in Crighton Theatre last Saturday and emceed by KUHA's Chris Johnson.
Following a western-chic barbecue affair — think chi chi cowgirls with Beethoven's wigs — in an outdoor tent, chaired by supporters Marge and Steve Hayward and featuring a silent auction filled by Lyn Howard that honored faithful patrons Sandra and Jerry Streater, guests took their seats for the musical showcase.
The 29th annual YTA Music Competition dished out $20,000 in prizes and performance opportunities.
Jurors Larry Hutchinson, a teacher at Wayne State University and performer with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Allen Philharmonic music director Richard C. Giangiulio, Juilliard School faculty member Daniel Cataneo, Arizona Opera's Ryan Taylor and University of California at Santa Barbara piano faculty Charles Asche had their work cut out for them.
And so did the listeners as the competition tenders an Audience Choice Award.
Fiddle tremolo, please: The Grand Prize went to violist — not violinist, an important distinction — Allyson Goodman, who's working on a master's degree at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music under the tutelage of James Dunham. In addition to cash, Goodman will be offered a solo spot with the Conroe Symphony Orchestra and the Allen Philharmonic.
Winners of their respective divisions included pianist Andrew Staupe, also a graduate student at Shepherd, and alto saxophonist Robert Eason, who earned a bachelor's degree from University of Houston's Moores School of Music.
About the audience favorite: That would be soprano Ashly Neumann. She scooped top diva in the voice division, a title that includes an invitation to sing with the Montgomery County Choral Society.