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Winners Announced!

2023 YAC Winners from the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra

LaGrange Symphony Orchestra Announces the Winners of its 2023 Young Artists Competition

The Board of Directors of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra has announced the winners of the 27th annual Young Artists Competition, held in February, 2023. This competition began in 1996 to encourage professional standards of performance among young musicians. The founder of the Young Artists Competition was the late Dr. Barbara Kaplan who served as an active member of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors from 1992 to 2005.

Sicong Chen
Sicong Chen

First Place Winner

The Dorothy Allen Turner Award for first place went to violinist Sicong Chen who performed the first movement of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op 35.   The 25-year-old Beijing, China native is a student and serves as a Graduate Assistant at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University.

Since 2021, Chen has studied in the violin studio of Sergiu Schwartz, the William B. and Sue Marie Turner Distinguished Faculty Chair in Violin. He also acts as an Ambassador for the Samuel Vargas International Music Foundation, teaching and mentoring young aspiring talents. Chen has appeared as a soloist and ensemble musician in venues across the globe as well as serving as concertmaster of the Beijing Youth Symphony Orchestra, Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra and the Schwob Philharmonic.

Chen has received top awards in the Sicong Ma National Violin Competition, Hong Kong International Violin Competition, Schoenfeld International String Competition, Hong Kong International Chamber Music Competition, China Hummingbird Chamber Music Competition and the Schwob School of Music Concerto Competition.

Chen will appear with the LSO at Callaway Auditorium in April 2023

As first place winner, Mr. Chen will receive $1,500 and perform as the featured soloist with the LaGrange Symphony in the final concert of the 2022/2023 season, entitled “SUSTAINABILITY” on April 25th at 7:30 PM in Callaway Auditorium. Chen is one of two guest artists at the April concert. The LSO also welcomes guest artist, organist Don Papenbrock, for Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3Read more about this wonderful season finale concert HERE.

Roni Shitrit
Roni Shitrit

Second Place Winner

The Max Kaplan Award for second place and a $1,000 cash award was won by violinist Roni Shitrit who performed the first movement in Violin Concerto in d minor by Jean Sibelius. Shitrit will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance degree from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.

A native of Israel, she has performed in festivals in Israel and Germany and won competition awards in Italy, Germany, Russia, and the United States.  In 2021, Shitrit received a scholarship with exceptional distinction on her performance from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation. She has studied violin with Oskar Shraiberaman in Ramla, Israel as well as both Janet Orenstien and Ida Bieler at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Benjamin Tomas Perez
Benjamin Tomas Perez

Third Place Winner

Winner of the NOTE Award for third place and a $500 cash award was violist Benjamin Tomas Perez who performed the first movement of William Walton’s Concerto for Viola. Perez, a native of Chili, is a student at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University.

He began playing violin at the age of 12 and begin taking classes with University-level instructors. As a violinist, he has participated in orchestras and festivals throughout Chili and studied in the United States and Europe. Perez began playing viola when the pandemic limited performance opportunities for musicians. He currently studies violin in the studio of Sergiu Schwartz and plays viola as a member of the Virtuosi String Ensemble conducted by Professor Schwartz.


Judges of the 2023 Young Artists Competition were Kerren Berz, violinist, arranger and educator; Yinzi Kong, violinist and member of the international known Vega Quartet; and Guang Wang, cellist and member of the international known Vega Quartet. All three judges were impressed by the quality of the entrants who were judged on musicianship, technical ability, and poise.

The competition was open to participants from Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee who were under age 26 and played a string instrument.

Additional information about the LaGrange Symphony’s annual Young Artists Competition is available online at

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