Youth Concerto Competition

February 17-18, 2018, at the University of Arizona campus in Tucson.

An invitation to Arizona’s finest young musicians

The 2018 Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition asks talented young music students to prepare for and perform one movement of a concerto. The competition is designed to recognize and support the outstanding young musicians in our community, polish performance skills and build real-life experience.

Competitors will vie for $1,000, $500 and $250 awards, SASO season tickets and the possibility of performing as a soloist with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra.

If you are or know of a music student from age 13 to 18, take advantage of this valuable opportunity. Apply by February 2, 2018. The competition will be held on February 17-18, 2018, on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson.

Eligible Instruments

All orchestral instruments, including piano.

Student Eligibility

Any public, private or home school student from age 13 to 18 (as of March 1, 2018) who has not yet graduated from high school is eligible to compete. Students under the age of 13 may apply with his or her teacher’s recommendation.

Entry Procedure

Please fill in and submit our online application before the deadline of February 2, 2018.

Apply Online



$1,000 and two SASO season tickets


$500 and two SASO season tickets


$250 and two SASO season tickets

Performance Award

At the judges’ discretion, one of the winners may be invited to perform as a soloist with SASO, March  10 and 11, 2018.

Repertoire Requirements

  • Student should prepare one movement from standard concerto repertoire. All works should be for solo instrument and orchestra.
  • Music performed should be memorized.
  • Three copies of the music are to be provided to the judges.
  • Student must provide their own accompanist.

SASO’s Story

The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.
Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music