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Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra 61st Young Artist Competition

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The 2020 - 2021 61st FRIENDS of the Minnesota Orchestra Young Artist Competition

Applications will open on September 1, 2020.  To begin your application, please choose your instrument from the menu on the left.

The mission of FRIENDS of the Minnesota Orchestra (formerly WAMSO) is to create opportunities that bring the power of music to children, families and adults. The Young Artist Competition was founded in 1956. 

This competition is aimed at exceptional young musicians who are actively pursuing musical careers. The top prize is an opportunity to perform with the Minnesota Orchestra as a soloist. In addition, several cash prizes and performance opportunities are available.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and competitor feedback, we are making several changes and improvements to the competition:

  • Both the Preliminary and Semi-Final rounds will be online, hosted on Semi-Finalists will not travel to Minneapolis.  This will minimize both travel, and interaction of large groups.
  • Five Finalists will be invited to Minneapolis for the finals.
  • The live Final round will be one day, on May 23, 2021. Finalists can travel in on Friday evening or Saturday morning, and then rehearse with their accompanist.  This shortens the required travel time, eliminates the back-to-back competition days, and greatly simplifies logistics for the traveling Finalists.
  • We have simplified the prize structure, with the objective that each Finalist will be able to offset at least a large part of their cost of travelling to Minneapolis.
  • FRIENDS values our tradition of hospitality for our competitors. However, we recognize that the state of the pandemic in May 2021 may make staying with host families impossible. In that event, we will provide hotel lodging near Orchestra Hall, and arrange appropriate rehearsal spaces / opportunities, including for pianists.
  • Holding the Finals live and in person at Orchestra Hall is decidedly the preference of FRIENDS and the judges. However, if the state of the pandemic in early 2021 suggests that is not possible, FRIENDS will investigate options for holding a fair and full Final competition through live streaming. FRIENDS reserves the right to cancel the competition if the conditions for a fair and full Final competition cannot be achieved. Please see the Refund Policy below.

Competition Date: May 23, 2021

Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, MN

Application Deadline: December 31, 2020

Application Fee:

 All applicants must be age 25 or younger (not yet 26 years old as of the date of the Competition: May 23, 2021) and must be a resident or studying within the U.S. or Canada. Proof of residency and/or study required.

Applications must be submitted through the Acceptd portal by December 31, 2020. Preliminary winners, who will be invited to participate in the Semi-Final round in February, will be announced on or about January 31, 2021. Finalists will be informed sixty days before the Finals, to allow time to find the best airfares.

Refund Policy: The application fee of $130.00 is non-refundable unless the competition is cancelled.  If for any reason the competition is cancelled, FRIENDS will refund $95 of the application fee.  The remainder covers bank charges and fair compensation to Acceptd for work already performed.

The application consists of both a resume and video performance. Videos should be submitted as follows: 

  1. Entire Concerto, each movement in a separate file (see Repertoire Requirements, below)
  2. Solo Work #1 (see Repertoire Requirements, below)
  3. Solo Work #2 (see Repertoire Requirements, below)
* You do not need to record the solo works in their entirety, but the total recorded playing time of the solos combined should be a minimum of 10 minutes. Please indicate movements within your video.

*Video files must not include the musician's name, and should include the name of the piece and movement, if applicable.

*Pianists may record their concerto without the second piano part. All other instruments must include the accompaniment. Cuts are allowed in tutti sections, attacca, introductions and interludes. 

Repertoire Requirements
: Please read the below information carefully, as exceptions are not allowed and error in submitting correct repertoire will result in disqualification.  
  1. Entire concerto for orchestra from the standard repertoire for their instrument. Memorization for this work is required through all rounds of the competition.
  2. Two solo works that are contrasting styles and periods and from the standard repertoire.The two solo works combined must be a minimum of 20 minutes in length. Unaccompanied solo works are permitted. Extracted movements of multi-movement pieces are not allowed, e.g. the contestant may offer a full sonata, but not just selected movements of a sonata. The applicant must be able to perform all portions of multi-movement solo works for semi-finals and finals, though full recordings are not required for the application. Memorization of these two works is not required. 

To help you select the two solo pieces, use the following examples:

  • Substantial work from the Baroque period
  • Major multi-movement work from the Classical period, e.g. sonata, partita, toccata
  • Substantial work from the Romantic era
  • Substantial work from the 20th century
  • Percussionists' repertoire selections must include at least two of the following three instrument categories: marimba, timpani, multiple percussion.

Requirements are the same for all rounds of competition.

Questions regarding repertoire should be directed to We recommend that you clarify all repertoire questions before submitting your application. 

Rounds of Competition
Preliminary Round - professional orchestral musicians and conservatory / university teachers will judge and assess talent based on the video submissions. They work in specialized three-judge panels by instrument or instrument family.  Their scores will determine who will be invited to compete in the Semi-Final Round (also online).

Semi-Final Round - a panel of 5-7 judges will judge 18 minutes of your recorded performance, with the specific portions chosen by the judges. If you advance to the Semi-Final Round, you may submit one or more new performances.  These must be submitted no later than March 1, 2021. The judging panel includes specialists in each of the instrument families represented in the Semi-Final round, and a conductor.

Final Round – a panel of 3 judges will judge a live performance of 15 minutes. Each contestant shall offer the same concerto that was played in the Semi-Final round. Memorization is required. Contestants will offer one of the two solo works that was played in the semi-final round. Choose a contrasting work from a different style period than the concerto. Memorization for this additional work is not required. The panel of judges is chaired by the Music Director, Osmo Vanska, and typically includes a player from the Minnesota Orchestra and another distinguished judge.


Reserve Grand Prize: Awarded to the First Prize winner at the discretion of the Minnesota Orchestra Music Director 

  • Performance on a subscription concert of the Minnesota Orchestra, in addition to the First Prize
First Prize
  • $7,500 Founder's Award
  • Performance with the Minnesota Orchestra

Second Prize: $4,000

Third Prize: $2,000

Fourth Prize: $1,500

Fifth Prize: $1,000 

Please contact us at if you have questions. 

For technical questions, please check out our Help Desk for frequently asked questions.