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Judith Elser Concerto Competition

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The 2021-2022 competition:

This season's competition was open to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a Maine college or university who submitted an application by February 14, 2022.

Mesa Schubeck, a graduate student studying at USM, took the top prize after performing the first movement of Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor for a panel of judges live at the Gendron Franco Center on April 8, 2022.  She performed the same piece as soloist with the MSO during their 2022-23 season, and received $1000 from the Judith Elser Fund.

Brian Liu, a student at Bowdoin College, was the competition's runner up with his performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. At the time of the competition he was finishing his first year there studying with artist in residence George Lopez.

The other finalists for this year's competition, chosen from an audition process, were:

  • Kate Ishida, Violin, Bowdoin College
  • Mathieu Moutou, Violin, Bates College
  • Jonathan Prak, Piano, USM


The 2019-2020 competition:

MSO's second biennial concerto competition was open to undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in a Maine college or university who submitted application materials by March 1st, 2020. We announced finalists in April but the pandemic delayed the final auditions and winner's performance.

Finals were held October 21, 2020, in socially distanced fashion at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston.

  • Winner: Anne McKee, Violin, Bowdoin College.
  • Runner-up: Mesa Schubeck, Piano, USM.

Anne performed the first movement of the Violin Concerto by Johannes Brahms with the MSO in January, 2022, and she received $1,000 from the Judith Elser Concerto Fund.

The first biennial competition:

The final live auditions were held in May 2018, leading to:

Nathan was guest soloist with the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra at our October 2018 concert series, and he received $1,000 from the Judith Elser Concerto Fund.

How the competiton started:

The competition honors the memory of Judy Elser (1940-2015), a long-time music teacher who played cello in the MSO for many years,  served on the Board, and left a generous bequest to the orchestra when she died. We are grateful for all she gave to the orchestra, and know that she would be thrilled to witness the personal growth and success her gift has made possible for our young entrants and winners.

A bit about the MSO:

The Midcoast Symphony is a community orchestra founded in 1990. Started as a chamber orchestra, we now have over eighty members on our roster. We play four concert programs per year, performing at the Orion Center in Topsham and the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston. Our audiences number around 500 in the Orion Center, and close to 200 in Lewiston. All members are volunteer players; we are teachers, doctors, homemakers, business people, retired people and a variety of other occupations, and we hail from the Midcoast, Lewiston-Auburn and Portland regions.  Many of us have advanced degrees in performance, but we also include players who started as adults, and those who have always played as an avocation. We do repertory ranging from Mozart and Haydn to recently written pieces, and we are excited to connect further with talented young players from our state.

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