Pearl Amster Youth Concerto Competition

Mission Statement
To cultivate and celebrate the Austin area young musicians by providing a performance opportunity with a full symphony orchestra.

Spotlighting exceptional young musicians age 18 and under from Austin and the surrounding areas, the Pearl Amster Youth Concerto Competition gives these youth the opportunity to perform with a full symphony orchestra and win college scholarship assistance. Former winners include musicians featured on NPR's From the Top, Carnegie Hall performers, and Juilliard graduates. 

The audition process is in two parts. All applicants submit an application that includes an audio recording of the applicant playing the composition and a panel of judges screens the recordings and chooses finalists for the live auditions. The second part is the live audition where a panel of three judges selects three winners to perform with in concert with the Austin Civic Orchestra.
Important Dates
  • Friday, October 31, 2014 - All application materials submitted.
  • Monday, December 1, 2014 - Applicants notified of recorded audition results
  • Sunday, January 11, 2015 - Live auditions at Bachus Conservatory in Austin, TX.
  • Saturday, March 28, 2015 - Winners perform in concert with the Austin Civic Orchestra
2015 Winners
 Ben Hoang
Ben Hoang, age 11, is a 6th grade student at Holy Family Catholic School in Austin, TX. He started playing piano at the age of 5 and is currently a piano student of Dr. Saida Kafarova.  Ben's first debut with an orchestra was at the age of 9 when he toured with the Austin Symphony Orchestra on their annual high school concerts. At the age of 10, Ben performed with the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra as the winner of the 2014 Marielle Ogletree Young Artist Concerto Competition. This year, Ben is also the winner of the Houston Symphony League Concerto Competition and will perform the complete Grieg piano concerto with the Houston symphony in 2016. Among his awards are the Gold medal at the 7th International Chopin Youth Competition in Houston and first place winner of the Texas State University's Young Artist Piano competition in 2012. Ben is also a frequent first-place winner at the Austin Distric Music Teacher Association Solo Contests. Besides piano, Ben is also active in the school math team, enjoys reading, biking,  and playing video games.

Ben will play the 3rd movement of Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16.

Eunice Lee
Eunice Lee, age 15, began playing the piano at age seven and is currently studying with Shearon Horton. She is a sophomore at Cedar Park High School. Eunice has participated and won numerous competitions and festivals, including Texas State Young Artist Piano Competition, Baylor/Waco Piano Competition, New Orleans Piano Institute (2011, 2014) where she was awarded full scholarship to attend the NOPI of 2015, Texas State International Piano Festival (2012-2013) where she was awarded full scholarship to attend the 3rd and 4th TSIP Festivals, TMTA Performance Contest, Austin Piano Festival, the Schedler/Janet Russell Piano Scholarship Competition. In 2013, Eunice has appeared on ‘From the Top’ on NPR with Christopher O’ Riley, has been featured on KMFA’s ‘Kids Recording Kids’ Program, 'Pianoforte' and ‘Staccato’, and has been interviewed for a news article by Austin Statesman. Eunice has been invited as one of two ensembles to perform in the exclusive, invitational event ‘Beethoven Bash’ in honor of Beethoven’s birthday. Eunice is also the founder of Music Eunited, a nonprofit piano program that provides free lessons for financially underprivileged and disabled children. Eunice has had masterclasses with internationally respected pianists from the Julliard Conservatory,  Eastman Conservatory, and many others, such as Julian Martin, Jennifer Hayghe, Spencer Myers, Igor Resnianski, and many more. She is an active member of several organizations, such as Student Council (Sophomore Class Treasurer), Varsity Debate Team, and the Austin Chamber Music Center.  At ACMC, Eunice is currently the pianist in a Merit Scholarship Ensemble.

Eunice will perform the 1st movement of Camille Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22.

Grace Song
Grace Song is a 17 year old violinist and a 12th grader at Westwood High School, Austin, Texas. She studies with Professor Brian Lewis and Dr. Soojin Nam. Grace’s current achievements includes winning the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition which gave her the opportunity to play with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra at Bass Concert Hall, winning the Wilcox Competition along with the Sally Rudd Supplemental Award, an invitation to demonstrate at a lecture hosted by Dr. Charles Ervin at the 2014 Menuhin International Violin Competition, Austin, Texas, winning the Grand Prize Winner for the 7th Young Musicians’ Festival Competition February, 2014, ranking 5th in the Texas All State Symphony Orchestra 2014, and being concertmaster numerous times, in the Westwood High School Symphony Orchestra, Austin Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the Region 26 High School Symphony Orchestra of 2013. In December 2013, Grace was asked to perform a Tango (Por Una Cabeza) as a soloist with the Westwood High School Full Orchestra for the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. Before in 2012, Grace had been invited to perform with the Westwood High School Percussion Ensemble at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago.  She won the 2012 Austin Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, which gave her the opportunity to perform with the Austin Symphony Orchestra and tour around with them to several high schools in Austin. In May 2012, Grace performed a solo at the Long Center of the Performing Arts, Austin, Texas, as the winner of the 5th Asian American Community Partnership Challenge Cup Competition.  Additionally, Grace played with the Honor Orchestra of America 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was member of the Texas All State Orchestra 2012, 2013, and 2014, and has won a golden medal for the distinguished honor of being recognized as an Outstanding Soloist at the Texas State Solo and Ensemble Contest. January 22, 2013, Grace was featured in the Austin American Statesman Newspaper for soloing with the Austin Symphony Orchestra and the Southwestern Musician magazine November 2013 issue published by TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) as a demonstrator. Along with a few members of the Austin Youth Symphony Orchestra, she was invited to perform with the Austin Symphony Orchestra for their annual Christmas Sing-Along five years in a row. For the past two summers, Grace attended the Meadowmount School of Music in New York. She was honored to perform in master classes and to participate in master classes with Steven Rochen, Sally Thomas, Hans Jensen, Ann Setzer, Gerardo Ribiero, Melissa Kraut, Joseph Silverstein, William van der Sloot, Clive Greensmith, Alan Bodman, Tong Wei Dong, and Lynn Harrell. Grace was invited to perform in a master class for members of the distinguished American Chamber Trio: June DeFrost and Daniel Morganstern, Professor Brian Lewis, and Jennifer Fraustchi. In March 2014, she was invited to perform in a master class for Caroline Shaw, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2014. Currently, Grace is a member of Chamber Music in Public Schools (CHAMPS), first violinist for the Cello Quintet, concertmaster of the Westwood High School Symphony Orchestra, and concertmaster of the Austin Youth Symphony Orchestra. Aside from violin, she is an accomplished pianist, winning numerous piano competitions, including the ADMTA Piano Solo Competition. In her spare time, Grace likes to spend time with friends, listen to music, swim, and watch movies. Grace hopes to become a professional violinist in the future.

Grace will perform the 1st movement of Jean Sibelius'  Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47

Honorable Mention
Whitney Souery

Whitney Souery, age 17, is a junior at Lake Travis High School and has studied harp for seven years. Whitney has had the honor of being selected to perform with the Texas All-State Symphony Orchestra for both her freshmen and sophomore years and, in addition to harp, also plays flute. Whitney was honored as the recipient of the Texas Music Scholar award and the Outstanding Soloist award at the 2014 Texas State Solo and Ensemble contest, among other honors. In the future, Whitney hopes to play with a symphony orchestra on either flute or harp and pursue a career in neuroscience or physics.

Past Winners

Notable past winners include the following:
  • Trumpeter Bob Cannon, who won in 1988, is now principal trumpet with the Austin Symphony.
  • Violinist Eri Lee Lam, who won in 1990 at the age of 17, is now Violin Professor and Chamber Music Director at Southwestern University in Georgetown.
  • Violinist Long Zhou, who won in 1991, is concertmaster of the Symphony of the Hills and has played with the San Antonio Symphony. Long is the father of violinist Nancy Zhou, an Amster winner in 2004 and 2006. Nancy is now studying at the New England Conservatory.
  • Pianist Melissa Marse, who won in 1992, received a doctorate from the New England Conservatory and now performs extensively worldwide. Melissa also sings professionally with Conspirare.
  • Pianist Angela Alonzo, who won in 1993 and 1994 at the ages of 16 and 17, respectively, was featured on NPR's From the Top series. Angela had her Carnegie Hall debut in January 2002.
  • Pianist Chris Guzman, who won in 1995 at the age of 14, received his bachelor's and master's degree  from Juilliard, his artist diploma from the New England Conservatory of Music and is currently working on his DMA at the University of Texas at Austin. Chris also is touring and has performed in Tokyo twice and with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
  • Violinist Carrie Rodriguez, who won in 1995 and 1996, attended Oberlin Conservatory of Music and is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music in Boston. She is currently touring and has a hit CD with Chip Taylor.
  • Cellist Daniel McDonough, who won in 1996 at age 16, earned master's degrees from Juilliard and the New England Conservatory. Daniel performs with the award-winning Jupiter String Quartet.
  • Pianist Katie Frank, who won in 1999 at the age of 18, was accepted into the finals of the Pinault International Piano Competition in New York. Katie also performed a solo recital at Carnegie Hall.
  • Violinist Warren Hood, who won in 2000 at the age of 18, is the son of violinist Champ Hood, who toured with Lyle Lovett. Warren has performed with Charlie Robinson, the Austin Symphony, and the South Austin Jug band. Warren is also a frequent guest artist of musician Tish Hinojosa.
  • Oboist Nicholas Stovall, who won in 2001, received a master's from Juilliard and is now principal oboist with the National Symphony.
  • Pianist Mary Elizabeth Box, who won in 2003 at the age of 18, received a bachelor of music degree from the Eastman School of Music in 2009.
  • Bassoonist T.K. DeWitt, who won in 2003, received a master's from Rice University and now plays with the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra. T.K. is also a regular with the Houston Symphony.
  • Pianist Benjamin Laude, who won in 2004, earned a master's from Juilliard and now performs worldwide. Ben also teaches at Juilliard and in his private studio in Manhattan.
  • Bassoonist Billy Short, who won in 2004, studied at the Rice University Shepherd School of Music and is now principal bassoonist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
  • Hornist John Turman, who won in 2008, studied at the Rice University Shepherd School of Music and is now with the Dallas Symphony.
  • Pianist Danielle Cordray, who won in 2009, earned a bachelor's in music at the University of North Texas and is now principal harpist with the Dallas Civic Wind Ensemble.
  • Cellist Laura Andrade, who won in 2010 at age 15, is studying at the Eastman School of Music.
  • Violinist Collin Turner, who won in 2012 at age 18, is studying at the Mercer University Townsend School of Music.
This competition is named in honor of the long-time dedication of Pearl Amster and her husband Gustav in furthering the growth and development of performance opportunities for budding musicians. College scholarships are funded by an endowment by the Webber Family Foundation and administered by the Austin Community Foundation.