Young area musicians can compete for $5,000 in prize money

Nov. 1—Area high schoolers will be able to compete for $5,000 in prize money — as well as win an opportunity to perform with the Mankato Symphony Orchestra — during two new competitions on Feb. 25 in St. Peter.

Thanks to a gift from the Mary Suedbeck Fund of the Mankato Area Foundation, the Mankato Symphony Orchestra will offer two new competitions for high schoolers, one for soloists and the other for ensembles. The $5,000 gift came from an anonymous donor.

Both competitions will be Feb. 25 at the Schaefer Fine Arts Center at Gustavus Adolphus College. The deadline to apply is Dec. 1.

The Ensemble Competition is open to all ninth through 12th graders who perform on band or orchestral instruments and are from Blue Earth, Nicollet, Brown, Le Sueur, Waseca, Faribault, Martin and Watonwan counties. The Solo Concerto Competition is open to all high school solo instrumentalists from throughout Minnesota.

The goal of the competition is to encourage high schoolers toward excellence in the arts, said Bethel Balge, executive director of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra.

"A competition is an incredible motivator for young students," she stated in an MSO news release. "The prize money will help support the cost of their musical lessons, musical scores, and instruments. And it's incredibly exciting to perform with an orchestra, either as a section member or as a soloist. The Mankato Symphony is very thankful for the funding that has made this competition possible."

The winner of the Solo Concerto Competition will win $1,500, and second place will win $500. For the Ensemble Competition, each first-place winner will receive $500 and second place winners will each receive $250. High school teachers who coach students to prepare for the competition are also eligible for a stipend, Balge said.

She hopes the competition becomes an annual event and is looking toward other area donors to help fund it in subsequent years.

"The main sustenance will come from donors who have an interest and a heart for motivating high schoolers in their musical endeavors and are on board to continue the competition," Balge said in an interview.

"I think the high school years are a vital time for growth and having a contest with these incentivizing prizes is just the perfect spur, the perfect prod," she said.

The contests will be judged by professional musicians.

There's a $40 application fee for students interested in competing. To apply, go online to and then mail in your fee per the instructions online.