UH’s Texas Music Festival and Houston Symphony partner to form the Cynthia Woods Mitchell-Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition

Violinist Xiao Wang, winner of the 2012 Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition. Wang is now a faculty member at Manhattan School of Music and will serve on the faculty of the 2023 Texas Music Festival / Photo courtesy of University of Houston

Two of the city’s longest-running classical music competitions will combine efforts to support young artists through enhanced performance opportunities and prize money.

The University of Houston recently announced that it will merge its Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition (founded in 1990) with the Houston Symphony’s Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition (founded in 1976). The inaugural Cynthia Woods Mitchell-Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition will take place on June 11, 2023 at the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival at UH.

Through funding provided by the Houston Symphony, the UH’s Texas Music Festival will be able to increase its cash prizes for winners by about threefold: 1st Place ($1,500), 2nd Place ($1,000), and 3rd Place ($750), as well as an Audience Favorite Prize ($500). In previous years, the prizes of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Competition were continent on budget and ranged from $200-$500, according to Alan Austin, General and Artistic Director of the Texas Music Festival.

The first-place winner of the 2023 Mitchell-Hogg Competition will also be awarded opportunities to perform as soloist with the Texas Music Festival Orchestra on June 24 and with the Houston Symphony at an upcoming concert.

Austin calls the Ima Hogg Competition a “much-loved institution in the cultural life of Houston” and says the idea for the merge began when the Houston Symphony opened the conversation.

“The Houston Symphony was seeking a partner for the competition in order to ensure its sustainability in perpetuity,” he said. “TMF’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition was an obvious choice for the partnership, with a long history of high-quality musicianship and a list of distinguished winners who have gone on to solo careers and positions in major orchestras.”

The Ima Hogg Competition has been on hiatus since 2020, interrupted only by the pandemic in its nearly 50-year history.

“As we considered its future, it made complete sense to join forces with the prestigious Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition at the University of Houston’s Texas Music Festival,” said John Mangum, Houston Symphony Executive Director and CEO, in a statement.

“Both organizations are deeply committed to creating opportunities for young people to connect with music, so it seemed like a natural partnership,” he said.

Austin describes the collaboration as a “win-win” in support of the next generation of classical musicians—and the merging of the competitions’ namesakes, he adds, is way to continue to honor two cultural and philanthropic icons in the history of Houston, Cynthia Woods Mitchell and Ima Hogg.

According to a press release, the Mitchell-Hogg Competition is open to all Texas Music Festival Orchestra members. Up to eight finalists may be selected for the competition’s open-to-the-public final round.

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