By Kathryn Schwarzmann, Director of Education and Community Engagement

“How can they be so good!?” This is the question we hear from the very first day until well after the end of the Bolz Young Artist Competition every year. During the preliminary round of the competition, where we have numerous volunteers, family, accompanists and facility staff present, all are in awe as each of the nearly 40 high school students walks into the audition room and plays with confidence, artistry and poise.

“I wouldn’t want to be one of the judges.” Another common phrase, and all agree. Each year the judges ask if they might send on just one more deserving student to the next round, but there are only so many spots to fill. Many brilliant young students walk away from the first and second rounds of the competition with no formal recognition. But we all hope they know what an accomplishment it is to have performed in the competition and to reach what they have achieved. We hope they know how well their work will serve them in their promising futures.

Each year it is such a joy to get to know the students and families participating in the Bolz Young Artist Competition. And although every year the group is a little bit different, they all have some things in common. The level of respect and encouragement of each other is exciting. The level of focus and calmness under pressure is astounding. The level of responsibility, flexibility and awareness is comforting.

This year’s Final Forte finalists were violinists Emily Hauer and Jonah Kartman, and pianists Jessica Jiang and Michael Wu. Each performed their chosen concertos with the Madison Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday, February 26 for an audience in Overture Hall and audiences across state the tuning into Wisconsin Public Radio and PBS Wisconsin. Pianists Jessica Jiang and Michael Wu emerged as winners, and performed for high school-aged groups at our Spring Young People’s Concert the following day.

“How can they be so good!?” This is the expression of admiration for young people who have made full use of life’s opportunities, and of appreciation for the inspiration they provide to all of us to do the same.

Videos for each finalist shown during The Final Forte, are available for viewing online.
Jessica Jiang
Emily Hauer
Jonah Kartman
Michael Wu

View the press release.

Photos by Amandalynn Jones and Peter Rodgers

High school students from across the state competed in the Bolz Young Artist Competition, and the four finalists appeared with Associate Conductor Kyle Knox and the MSO in a free concert in Overture Hall before a live audience. Wisconsin Public Radio and PBS Wisconsin broadcast “Wisconsin Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte” throughout the state, and the winners performed for their peers at the Spring Young People’s Concert on the following day, February 27, 2020.

Photos by Peter Rodgers and Amanda Dill

Every year the MSO offers several concerts designed specifically for school-aged students. These concerts take place at the Overture Center to create exciting musical experiences with long-lasting impacts. The Spring Young People’s Concert creates memorable musical experiences for students in grades 6-12, showcasing the talents of the winners of the annual Bolz Young Artist Competition