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Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition

Abilene, Texas – The Abilene Philharmonic Association is excited to announce some changes to the formerly biannual Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition. The Young Artist Competition (YAC) was established through an endowment in 2008 by Eddie Hodges to honor his wife. He hoped establishing this competition would inspire and reward young peoples’ passion for music, and if recent changes are an indication, is has been a resounding success.

The Hodges family supported two key changes for the 2020 iteration of the YAC. First, they wanted to make the formerly biannual competition an annual one. 2020 will mark the first time the YAC has been held in consecutive years. Second, they wanted to expand the geographical scope of the competition, which now includes Texas School Regions 1-3, 5-10, 12, and 14-19. The competition continues to be open to all woodwind, brass, percussion, string, and piano students in these regions between the ages of 12-18.

The YAC has become a huge part of the Abilene Philharmonic’s community outreach in recent years. Last year alone, over 20 students applied to compete in the competition. The 2020 winners of the competition represented a diverse group of young musicians, with prize-winners ranging from a senior in the Abilene Youth Orchestra to a 12-year old pianist who seemed right at home among the older contestants.

One of the most exciting components of the competition has been the tradition of the prize-winners being granted opportunities to perform as soloists with the Abilene Philharmonic. Former 1st place winner Halle Puckett (now a piano masters student at the Peabody Conservatory) performed with the Philharmonic for the second time in January of 2020, and Faith Fang, a more recent prize-winner, was slated to perform with the orchestra in the ’20-21 season before the pandemic forced the organization to reschedule.

Of course, possibly the most exciting part of the competition is the reward. 1st Prize receives $1,500, 2nd Prize receives $1,000, and 3rd Prize receives $750. These funds can be used by the winners in ways that allow them to further their music education. This can include things like instrument repairs and supplies or music school.

The competition is looking slightly different this year because of the pandemic. The first round, which is usually held in a concert hall, is going completely online. Applicants are being asked to submit videos of themselves playing when they apply online. These videos are then forward to the competition’s panel of judges, who will select 5 or 6 to move on to the live final round, where participants will take the stage with their accompanists and perform for the judges.

“As the health crisis dragged on, it became clear we would need to adapt and move the first round to a completely online format. The safety of the students had to come first, and this actually gave us an opportunity to streamline the application process with the first round. We are confident that by the time the final round arrives, we will be able to provide the finalists can showcase their skills to these judges and do what they love. We are expecting big things from this group of applicants.” – Abigail Payne, Education and Community Outreach Coordinator.

The application and video for the first round can be submitted online until January 29th, 2021. The final round will be held on March 20th, 2021. There is an application fee of $25. Finalists will be notified of their performance times around two weeks after the first round deadline.

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