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2024 BSO Young Artist Competition winners

June 27, 2024

Bellingham Symphony Orchestra Announces 2024 Young Artist Competition Winners

From left to right: Erin Lin, Maria Horja and Elsa Jonson after being named winners of BSO's Young Artist Competition on June 18, 2024 at Western Washington University's Performing Arts Center Concert Hall.

June 26, 2024

Each year, the Bellingham Symphony Orchestra partners with the Bellingham Music Club to invite the winners of BMC Student Competitions to participate in the BSO's Young Artist Competition. Three winners receive a scholarship prize. In addition, the 1st place winner is invited to perform as part of the BSO’s Educational Concert at the Mount Baker Theatre.

This year's competitors performed a variety of challenging pieces onstage at Western Washington University's Performing Arts Center Concert Hall on Tuesday, June 18.

1st place: Maria Horja, Piano

Maria Horja received 1st place for the second year in a row.

"I had a lot of fun learning and performing this concerto! I’m so glad and grateful that others enjoyed listening as much as I enjoyed playing this piece,” said Maria. “This is the first full concerto I’ve learned so far; it was very special to have my mom as my accompanist.” Maria’s mother, Milica Jelaca Jovanovic, played the same concerto many years ago as her first performance with a symphony orchestra.

Maria Horja recently finished 10th grade at Bellingham’s Sehome High School. She began playing piano with Katie O’Rourke at age 5 and has studied with Judith Widrig since 2017.

Maria was a concerto winner at the Seattle Young Artists Festival in 2023 and a concerto finals alternate in 2022. She was awarded 1st place at the Outstanding Artists Competition in 2022 as well as WSMTA Chapter Competition the preceding four years. She's received several recognitions at festivals and competitions, including Gold Medals at the Bach Festival in Seattle and Russian Festival in Bellevue; Laureate of the Sanja Pavlovic Memorial competition; 2nd place at the Bellingham Music Club Competition in 2023. 

In her free time, Maria enjoys playing tennis and is on her high school's varsity team. She speaks three languages fluently and also loves to play the violin and a bit of jazz piano. She was concertmaster of the Sehome High School Chamber Orchestra, which travelled to the State Solo and Ensemble competition this year! Maria has two younger sisters who also play piano.

2nd place: Erin Lin, Oboe

Erin Lin performing at this year's Young Adult Competition, which took place at Western Washington University's Performing Arts Center Concert Hall.

"It was a pleasure playing in the BSO’s Young Artist Competition,” said Erin. “It gives young aspiring musicians the opportunity to perform and showcase their talents. Every competitor was incredibly skilled and artistic."

Erin Lin is a recent graduate of Sehome High school and has played the oboe for 8 years under the instruction of Jennifer Weeks. She grew up in a very musical family and started playing piano at 5 years old. Erin played in the Seattle Youth Symphony Youth Orchestra for four years and enjoys sharing her passion for music with the community. 

Additionally, Erin has played with the All-Northwest Orchestra, SJMEA Honor Band, National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra’s International Youth Orchestra, and has placed at the State Solo and Ensemble competition. As Erin continues her musical journey, she will be doing so at Stanford University where she will be studying Biochemistry this fall. 

3rd place: Elsa Jonson, Violin

Elsa Jonson performing at the 2024 Young Artist Competition.

Elsa Jonson is a high school junior from Bellingham who plays violin and piano. She began violin lessons at age two-and-a-half. Classical music is a part of her life from attending the BSO concerts with her grandparents, Chamber Days, teaching, and competitions. 

A memorable performance this year was the WSMTA Outstanding Artist Piano Competition (Senior Division, 2023) where she received 2nd prize. She also placed in the BMC Strings Competition and auditioned to join the BSO. This summer Elsa looks forward to attending Marrowstone Music Festival and performing a trio recital for the community. Elsa credits her music teachers for providing the necessary tools to bring the classical music from her mind and into her fingers.  

Elsa recognizes that performance opportunities are important learning tools for students and thanks the Bellingham Music Club and BSO for offering local competitions. After admiring the BSO from the balcony for many years, Elsa is now honored to join the stage as a musician to play a part in bringing classical music to our community.

Elsa looks forward to interacting with a varied group of musicians in the BSO and the experience of performing together.