Arts / Performing Arts

Young Texas Artists Get a Centerstage Moment With Some Bach, Beethoven and Barbecue at Conroe’s Crighton Theatre

A Three Day Competition Turned Celebration Gives Classical Music a Texas Twist

BY // 03.18.24

Arts nonprofit Young Texas Artists (YTA) put on an evening of down-home Texana and concert classics at its benefit gala dubbed “Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue” at Conroe’s Crighton Theatre. The three-part celebration included a dinner with dancing and a live auction; a Finalists’ Concert & Awards presentation featuring performances from eight rising classical music stars; and an afterparty with Bill Mock and His Highway 105 band, with desserts and champagne toasts to the winners.

The three-day Young Texas Artists Music Competition, under the leadership of Young Texas Artists artistic director Dr. Emelyne Bingham, drew 96 applicants. Seventy musicians qualified to compete in the preliminary rounds.

This event has been part of YTA’s annual calendar for 39 years, and is a fixture in the area.

“It was such a pleasure to attend YTA’s Annual Back Beethoven and Barbecue Gala, and the Music Competition Finalists’ Concert & Awards,” Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership CEO Gil Staley says. “I appreciate young Texas artists for their vibrant creativity and dedication to their craft.

“They infuse classical music with a unique Texan spirit, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative interpretations to timeless compositions. Their passion and energy breathe new life into classical pieces, captivating audiences and bridging generations through music.”

YTA's founder Jim Pokorski and his wife, YTA's president/CEO Susie Pokorski in the tent. (Photo by Dave Clements)
YTA’s founder Jim Pokorski and his wife, YTA’s president/CEO Susie Pokorski in the tent. (Photo by Dave Clements)

St. John Flynn was the master of ceremonies, and took a rapt audience through the classical musical program. Intermission featured a fine art exhibit, curated by Joseph Staley, the artistic director of YTA’s fine arts division. He also speaks at the series “Art & Music Through the Centuries,” being presented this year by YTA Circle, a group for YTA supporters.

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Young Texas Artists’ 2024 Winners

The 2024 Grand Prize winner was Daeun Han, a pianist from South Korea who holds a doctor of musical arts degree from the University of North Texas and an artist diploma from Indiana University. Han also was named YTA’s Gold Medalist in Piano for her performance of “Totentanz, S. 126” by Franz Liszt. She won a total of $10,000.

Additional Gold Medal winners were cellist Maximus Gurath, an undergraduate student at Rice University, in the Strings Division; saxophonist Rachel Jimenez, an undergraduate at Sam Houston State University, in the Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division; and soprano Krista Renée Pape, whol holds a master of music degree from University of Houston, in the Voice Division, The gold medalists received $5,000 each, and Jimenez, also the Audience Choice Award winner, received an additional $3,000.

Saxophonist Rachel Jimenez with Paula Hardman and Conroe City Councilmember Harry Hardman (to her left and right) shortly after they presented her with the Audience Choice Award at the 2024 Young Texas Artists (YTA) Music Competition Finalists’ Concert & Awards program. Jimenez also won the Gold Medal in Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp & Guitar. (Photo by David Hopper)
Saxophonist Rachel Jimenez with Paula Hardman and Conroe City Councilmember Harry Hardman (to her left and right) shortly after they presented her with the Audience Choice Award at the 2024 Young Texas Artists (YTA) Music Competition Finalists’ Concert & Awards program. Jimenez also won the Gold Medal in Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp & Guitar. (Photo by David Hopper)

Silver Medals went to Xin Cui, Piano Division, who has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas; cellist Claire Druffner, Strings Division, an undergraduate at Rice University; mezzo-soprano Joanne Evans, Voice Division, who has a master’s degree from Bard College Conservatory of Art; and tuba player Roberto Gaitan, Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar Division, an undergraduate at Sam Houston State University. The Silver Medalists received $3,000 each.

The YTA Impact

Young Texas Artists is a nonprofit that presents music competitions and events, career development programs and enrichment outreach. The group was founded in 1983 by Jim Pokorski. YTA alumni include a Grammy winner and two Grammy nominees, singers at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and a 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition silver medalist Kenny Broberg. Broberg studied at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music.

Lyn Howard YTA
Longtime Young Texas Artists (YTA) volunteer Lyn Howard (left) was honored for years of volunteer service during YTA’s Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala March 9. With her is YTA President/CEO Susie Pokorski. (Photo by David Hopper)

The annual YTA competition is open to classical artists, aged 18 to 32 (20 to 32 for voice) who are Texas residents or affiliated with a Texas music school. Judges are professionals from leading orchestras, opera companies and music conservatories. Their mission is to encourage excellence in young Texas musicians, inspire their audiences and enrich the cultural life of the state.

The Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala raises money for the nonprofit’s annual music competition and career development program.

PC Seen: Gil and Debra Staley, Joseph Staley, Lana and Bill Hazlett, Leland and Jeri Dushkin, Gary and Lee Ann Liebst, Richard and Ann Griffin, Annette Spikes, Ron and Myra Liston, David and Nancy Parsons, Brenda Gottlieb, Annette and Ken Hallock.

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