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Meet Susie Pokorski of Young Texas Artists Music Competition in Conroe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susie Pokorski.

Susie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
The Young Texas Artists Music Competition (YTA) began in 1983 as the Young Texas Artists Premier and featured only one performer. Presented by Montgomery County Performing Arts Society, the Premier evolved into a competitive showcase for Texas classical artists between the ages of 18 to 30. From two divisions with three local judges to four divisions and five internationally recognized judges, YTA continued to grow with the support of many patrons, sponsors and volunteers. Over the years improvements were added, including a professional artistic director, more cash and performance prizes, a career development program, and celebrity masters of ceremony. In 2007 the barbed-wire treble clef logo was introduced and the Texas Senate designated YTA “an official music competition of the State of Texas.” In 2012, the Finalists’ Concert and Awards evening was enhanced by the “Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue” gala, which became a successful annual Texas-sized tradition, and in 2013, a bronze statue honoring YTA was unveiled in Conroe’s Founders Plaza. In 2017 the organization became a non-profit corporation and received a number of prestigious grants.

Today YTA plans a bright future, continuing its growth and mission to “encourage excellence in young Texas musicians and inspire their audiences.” The organization is proud of thousands of alumni who have joined distinguished music faculties, orchestras and opera companies worldwide. Distinguished alumni include Grammy Nominees, singers at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and recently adding a Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Silver Medalist.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Haha! Well, not really, but we kept going with tremendous encouragement from passionate loyal fans, sponsors and volunteers. I guess it’s never easy for a non-profit arts organization to grow, but we learned so much from those involved in other classical music competitions, and we sought out the best judges and other professionals we could find, always taking in what they had to tell us. I was and am, always amazed at the enthusiastic encouragement we receive from our competitors, esteemed university faculty members and professional musicians, many with international recognition and success.

Classical music, though widely respected, is a narrow niche, so one of our major challenges has been to market to that audience while at the same time growing our base. We have been fortunate that Conroe is such an “arts town” and the county-wide support from here and The Woodlands has provided a very good audience for our outstanding artists. We know that our success depends on the quality of our musicians and their presentation at our major annual concert event, so we go “all out,” with celebrity emcees, and attracting contestants that are “the best of the best.” It never will be easy, I know, to consistently achieve the excellence we aspire to in our mission statement.

Please tell us about Young Texas Artists Music Competition.
Young Texas Artists, Inc. (YTA) is a non-profit organization that produces programs and events that further our mission to “encourage excellence in young musicians and to inspire their audiences.” At our major event, classical musicians, ages 18-32 annually compete in one of the four divisions of Piano; Strings; Voice; or Winds, Brass, Percussion, Harp and Guitar. Winners receive cash prizes and invitations to perform with symphony orchestras and other groups. We recently added a career development program and a support group of classical music devotees that features several programs during the year, in addition to our very popular gala, “Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue.”

We are most proud of two things — our uniqueness and our excellence! “Unique,” because YTA is the only event in Texas to feature a classical competition in all instrument divisions plus Voice, for Texas residents or those affiliated with Texas music schools. I add “excellence” because we attract the most promising musicians from all the major universities and garner accolades from top professionals as well as discriminating music lovers. Every year I hear amazed first-time attendees who say things like, “I can’t believe something THIS outstanding and enjoyable is happening right here in our own community!

UPCOMING EVENTS: Finalists’ Concert & Awards and Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue gala Saturday, March 10, 2018 in Conroe, Texas.

YTA Career Development seminar featuring Jade Simmons, Sept. 16, check

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
The first year I chaired YTA, I was a music lover but not a musician, so had to learn a great deal. I had never worked with musicians at this level, so it was a big thrill for me – I totally fell in love with it, and there’s not much I would change, except that now I’d have more experience.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Most important to our success is our commitment to excellence in the things that we do. It’s that simple, and is really our mission. We want to feel that inspiration and thrill that anyone gets when they witness the hitting of that high mark. And we want to share that thrill with others. I just call it, “…when the magic happens!”

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal Photo: Susie Pokorski (middle), with our YTA gala Co-Chairs, Mimi Sadler, Susie Pokorski, Garlaine Kelly.

Photo 1: Gala band, Bill Mock and the Highway 105 Band at 2015 Bach, Beethoven & Barbecue by Brad Meyer

Photo 2: Jade Simmons interviewing finalists 2017 by Brad Meyer

Photo 3: Kenneth Broberg, 2013 YTA Silver Medal AND 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Silver Medal by Dave Clements, DWC Photography

Photo 4: Allyson Goodman, Grand Prize 2013 by Dave Clements, DWC Photography

Photo 5: YTA winners 2014 by Brad Meyer

Photo 6 credit: Courtesy of Young Texas Artists, Inc.

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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