The Mankato Symphony Orchestra Announces Winners of 2023 Young Artist Competitions

    March 3rd, 2023

    Mankato, Minn. – The Mankato Symphony is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Young Artist Competitions, held on Saturday, Feb. 25, at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.

    Nearly two dozen elite high school musicians from across the state competed in the event, which was made possible through a generous gift from the Mary Suedbeck Fund of the Mankato Area Foundation. Students competed in both solo and ensemble categories.

    A brass quartet from Waseca High School received first place in the ensemble category. The quartet, comprised of Ethan Stenzel, Mason Jes, Noah Dahle, and Elias Nevalainen, performed Londonderry Air, arr. Nigel Williams. Waseca High School music teacher Devon Lawrence served as the group’s chamber coach. Each member of the quartet won $500 and has an opportunity to perform side by side with the Mankato Symphony Orchestra this fall.

    The top soloist prize went to pianist Jacob Taggart, of Blaine, Minn., for his performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, 3rd Movement. In addition to winning $1,500, Taggart has the opportunity to perform his solo with the Mankato Symphony Orchestra this fall. Cellist Sophia Alexander, of Minneapolis, Minn., won second place and a $750 prize with her performance of Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations. Judges also awarded honorable mentions to bassoonist Sam Geisler, of St. Paul, Minn., and two violinists, Charity Duran of Brooklyn Park, Minn., and Vladimir Tsiper, of Eagan, Minn.

    “It was truly wonderful to hear so many talented high schoolers last Saturday. I could tell they had spent many hours preparing their pieces for competition,” said Executive Director Bethel Balge. “I am so pleased the MSO is able to offer such an incentivizing event. We are very thankful to the donor who made this all possible!”

    The goal of the Young Artists Competition is to encourage high schoolers to achieve excellence in the arts and to foster musical collaboration between students.

    “Music teaches so much, from the practical side of problem-solving and perseverance to the emotional side of forging life-long friendships and sharing an art form that can reach across borders and barriers,” said Competitions Chair Megan Wehrwein. “Nurturing these qualities is even more important than the accolades and prizes, but it’s also nice to be able to offer incentives and recognition for students who go above and beyond in their achievements.”

    The Mary Suedbeck Fund, which provided the financial backing for the competition, was established in honor of the grandmother of the grantor. Suedbeck struggled to raise three children through the Great Depression with a husband who became completely disabled in his twenties. A Blue Earth County resident, Suedbeck ran a boarding house, took in laundry, and had little time for the more gracious aspects of life like art or music. She died at age 99. The fund was established in her memory so that others might pursue dreams that she and many of her generation were by circumstances denied.

    For more information about next year’s competition, visit