The Final Forte
Wisconsin Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte, FREE Live Concert and Competition
Wednesday, March 8, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. in Overture Hall
Congratulations to our 2023 winner of The Final Forte, Amelia Zitoun! All four competitors gave outstanding performances. The final results are:
First Place: Amelia Zitoun
Second Place: Arisa Okamoto
Honorable Mentions: Sophia Jiang and Lucy Wu
Broadcast live from Overture Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, the concert featured the magnificent Madison Symphony Orchestra led by Associate Conductor Kyle Knox. The four finalists were chosen from eight competitors at the January 13, 2023 Bolz Young Artist Competition Semi-Finals for the opportunity to compete in The Final Forte.
Congratulations to our 2023 Finalists!
Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, 2nd & 3rd movements
Read Sophia's Biography
Sophia is a 16-year-old Junior at the Vel Phillips Memorial High School. She has been playing piano since she was four. Her current teacher is Mr. Bill Lutes. Sophia has won numerous awards and honors on piano, including the first place winner of the 2021 Chippewa Valley Symphony’s Young Artist Competition, the 2021 Madison Symphony Orchestra Bolz Young Artist Competition (the Final Forte), the 2021 Walter A. and Dorothy J. Oestreich Concerto Competition of the Concord Chamber Orchestra, the representative of Wisconsin in the 2021 MTNA National Student Competitions in the Junior Piano category, a winner of the National Steinway Junior Piano Competition in 2018 and 2019, the first-place winner of the 2017 Wisconsin Youth Piano Competition organized by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and PianoArts, a winner of the 2017 Madison Symphony Orchestra Fall Youth Concerto Competition, and an honorable mention in the 2017 Midwest Young Artists Walgreens National Concerto Competition.
Sophia debuted as a soloist with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro John DeMain at the Overture Center in Madison, Wisconsin in 2017. She performed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra four times conducted by Maestro Yaniv Dinur at Uihlein Hall in Marcus Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2018. She also performed with Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Nobuyoshi Yasuda at Pablo Center at the Confluence in Eau Claire, WI in 2021. As the past winner, Sophia was invited to perform at the 2019 PianoArts North American Piano Competition and Festival. Sophia was featured in the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Home Is Where the Art Is, Young Artist Series. In 2022, Sophia was invited to serve on the Junior Jury at North American Senior Piano Competition organized by PianoArts and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
Sophia is also a violinist, having been a member in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) since 2017. Playing the violin, she got honorable mention in the Stars of Tomorrow Concerto Competition organized by Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in 2021 and 2022, and performed side by side with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Bradley Symphony Center in Milwaukee, WI in May of 2022. She was also a winner of the Philharmonia Orchestra Concerto Competition of WYSO in 2020.
Besides music, Sophia also excels in tennis. She partnered with her sister Jessica as a doubles team and was placed 4th in the 2020-21 WIAA Alternate Girls Tennis State Individual Tournament. The duo was featured in the Wisconsin State Journal for their feat. Sophia also reached the top 32 in 2021 and 2022 WIAA Girls Tennis State Individual Tournament in the singles draw. She was in the 2022 First Team of the Madison All-Area Girls Tennis Team Singles. Sophia is also on her school’s Track and Field Varsity team, running primarily mid- to long-distance.
Lastly, Sophia wishes to thank Mr. Steve Ayers for his collaboration and valuable advice on the beautiful piano concerto by Grieg.
Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47, 1st movement
Read Arisa's Biography
”Arisa Okamoto, 18, is a senior at Brookfield East High School. She was born in Japan and has been playing the violin since the age of four. She currently studies with Ilana Setapen, Acting Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Arisa was a national finalist of the 2020 Japan Classical Music Competition, placed second in the 2020 Manhattan International String Competition, and was the winner of the 2023 Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition.
Last Summer, Arisa attended the 2022 Center Stage Strings in Ann Arbor, MI. She has also joined summer festivals including the 2019 Ishikawa Music Academy in Japan and Manhattan International Music Festival in China (2018 and 2019). She served as Concertmaster during the festival and performed a showpiece by Wieniawski at the Cadillac Shanghai Concert Hall.
Chamber music has been an important part of Arisa’s musical journey, and she enjoys performing in community concerts with her friends and family. In the spring of 2019 and 2021, Arisa and her brother played for Tsugio Tokunaga, Shigeo Neriki, and Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi at the Ishikawa Ongakudo.
Before studying with Mrs. Setapen, Arisa received private instructions from Laura Minor, Kumiko Kawamata, Shoko Sasaki, Kazue Omura, Kanae Hashiba, and Momoo Kshibe at the Kyoto City University of Arts.
Elgar Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, 4th movement
Read Lucy's Biography
Lucy Wu, 14, is a Scholarship Fellow at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy, a training center for advanced pre-college musicians. She studies cello with Dr. Stefan Kartman, Professor of Cello at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Lucy began cello studies at age 7. She won the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition two years in a row and made her solo orchestral debut when she was 10 years old with MYSO. She has also played in the Wisconsin State Honors orchestra, and was awarded an Exemplary Soloist Award at the WSMA State Solo and Ensemble in 2020.
In 2022, Lucy was the recipient of the Anne French Burnham scholarship award at the Schubert Club Competition. She also received second place in the 2021 Camerata Artists International Competition and other distinctions from the DePaul Concerto Festival and the Walter A. and Dorothy J. Oestreich Concerto Competition. She has played for Stephen Balderston, Guy Johnston, Steve Tenenbom, and Tom Rosenberg.
In addition to performing solo, Lucy also enjoys chamber music. In the summer of 2021, she attended the Saint Paul Chamber Music Institute, where she studied with the Jasper String Quartet and performed the famous Schubert Cello Quintet. She has also played chamber music at the MYSO Davidson Chamber Ensemble Program and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. She currently plays in a piano trio at the MIC Academy.
Lucy is a freshman at Whitefish Bay High School, where she is principal of the Chamber Orchestra. She enjoyed playing at UW Steven Point’s fundraiser for Blume Haiti and multiple MYSO fundraisers. Outside of music, she is debate team captain, and a reporter for her school newspaper.
Barber Cello Concerto, Op. 22, 1st movement
Read Amelia's Biography
Amelia Zitoun, 17, is a scholarship Fellow at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy, a training center for advanced pre-college students. She has been a student there since 2019. She currently studies cello with Hans Jensen. In October of 2022, Amelia played the Barber Cello Concerto with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra on their Family Concert and Youth Performance Series. Earlier this year, Amelia was the winner of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Stars of Tomorrow Competition. She was also a winner of the 2022 Civic Music Association of Milwaukee’s High School Competition. Amelia is also a finalist in NPR’s “From the Top”, a radio show that showcases the stories, music, and talents of young classical musicians. In 2021, Amelia won First Prize in the Schubert Club Competition. In 2020 she was a winner of the DePaul Concerto Competition, performing the Kabalevsky Concerto with the Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra.
Amelia is also an active chamber musician. In 2022, as a member of the Hermes Piano Trio, she competed in the Quarterfinals of the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. In 2020, as a member of the Aurora Piano Quartet, her group won First Prize in the Rembrandt Chamber Music Competition, as well as advancing to the Quarterfinals in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.
This past summer Amelia attended the 2022 Heifetz International Music Institute, in Staunton, VA, as well as the Moulin d’Ande Cello Festival in France, where she studied with Jerome Pernoo (Paris Conservatory). In the summer of 2019 she attended the International Academy of Music in Nice, France, where she studied cello with Xavier Phillips, and chamber music with the Trio Wanderer.
Amelia has been featured on WFMT: Introductions, as a member of both the Aurora Piano Quartet, and the Celeste String Quartet. Before studying with Mr. Jensen, Amelia studied with Horacio Contreras for four years. Amelia has had the honor of playing for David Finckel, Lluis Claret, Richard Aaron, Steven Doane, Clara Kim, Astrid Schween, Julian Schwarz, Amir Eldan, Brandon Vamos, Vladimir Perlin, Anthony Elliot, Jesús Castro-Balbi, Yvan Chiffoleau, Tanya Carey, and Marie-Françoise Bloch.
Broadcast and rebroadcast dates:
WPR – News & Music Network
Live at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 8, 2023
12:30 p.m., Sunday, March 12, 2023
Live at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 8, 2023
The Wisconsin Channel
8:00 p.m., Friday, March 10, 2023
2:00 p.m., Saturday, March 11, 2023
3:00 a.m., Thursday, March 16, 2023
Milwaukee PBS (WMVT – Channel 36)
4:00 p.m., Saturday, March 18, 2023
Watch Soloist Interviews
Wisconsin Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte is a free concert that is broadcast live on PBS Wisconsin and Wisconsin Public Radio. This competition has captured an enormous following and numerous honors, including an Emmy nomination, First Place in the “Special Interest” category from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association in 2007, and fifth most-watched program in the February 2007 Nielsen ratings. The 2008 broadcasts reached more than 60,000 viewers and listeners in the Madison market alone and the 2009 broadcasts reached an estimated 200,000 statewide.
The Bolz Young Artist Competition is a highly-regarded statewide competition in which Wisconsin’s young musicians compete for scholarships and the opportunity to perform as soloists with the MSO. The competition is open to Wisconsin residents in grades 9-12. Previous winners may not compete in consecutive years on the same instrument. Contracted musicians of the MSO are ineligible.
The four semi-finalists compete in The Final Forte, which will be broadcast on PBS Wisconsin and Wisconsin Public Radio. Each winner receives a $2000 scholarship and the Marian Bolz Prize for Distinguished Musical Achievement or the Steenbock Youth Music Award. Up to two Honorable Mention scholarships of $1000 may also be awarded.
Performing with the Madison Symphony Orchestra is really a remarkable experience. Working with so many great musicians and Maestro John DeMain inspired me to bring my own playing to a new level. It brought my understanding of my own musicianship and my piece to a different place. It is rare for anyone to work with such a skilled orchestra and conductor, let alone musicians of my age. To be given the entire experience of performing with an orchestra, from speaking with the conductor to the rehearsals and to the concerts, is an experience and opportunity of a lifetime. It has taught me so much as a musician and a person.
This was a deeply meaningful event for me because it was my first solo appearance with an orchestra. It truly felt like a dream.
It is an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to feel the commitment and energy of these young performers and to reflect on the central role the arts play in our lives. I look forward to these events with great joy
View photos from The Final Forte, previous performances.
Click images for captions.
Thank you to our partners
The Bolz Young Artist Competition is made possible by a generous endowment from
The Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Foundation
Wisconsin Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte concert and broadcasts are the result of a historic partnership among
Major funding for Wisconsin Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte is provided by:
W. Jerome Frautschi
Barbara & Norm Berven
Fred & Mary Mohs
James Dahlberg & Elsebet Lund
Julie & Larry Midtbo
Dr. Sandra L. Osborn
Cyrena & Lee Pondrom
Sentry Insurance Foundation
Dr. A. Beyer-Mears
Darcy Kind & Marc Vitale
Focus Fund for the Arts
Friends of PBS Wisconsin