2023 OKCPHIL Young Musician Competition

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic is pleased to resume its Young Musician Competition in the 2022-23 Season! Oklahoma’s student instrumentalists in grades 9 – 12, as well as piano and string students in grades 5 – 8, will compete in a video First Round, an in-person Semi-Final Round, and a public, in-person Final Round for a chance to win cash prizes and opportunities to perform at OKCPHIL events. Additionally, the overall winner will perform as a featured soloist with the OKCPHIL orchestra next season!

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Questions regarding the OKCPHIL Young Musician Competition can be emailed to competition@okcphil.org.

Henry Ingels, winner of the 2020 Buttram Competition, performs with the OKCPHIL orchestra at Scissortail Park

Important Dates

January 10, 2023 Entry and Video Submissions Deadline
March 26, 2023 Semi-Final Round at OCU Bass School of Music
April 23, 2023 Final Round at OCU Bass School of Music


Students who live in Oklahoma and meet the age/grade requirements of the particular competition category are eligible to participate.


Senior Division (grades 9 – 12, ages 18 and under)

  • String Quartet
  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • Double Bass
  • Piano
  • Woodwinds
  • Brass
  • Classical Guitar
  • Percussion & Harp

Junior Division (grades 5 – 8, ages 14 and under)

  • Strings
  • Piano

Students are permitted to compete in more than one category.
Categories may be modified/combined based on the number of actual entries received from each instrument type.

Competition Procedure
  • Students submit a video here on our website, following the Submission Requirements below
    • Memorization and accompaniment are optional in this round.
    • Judges, comprised mostly of OKCPHIL musicians, will score submissions.
    • All entrants will receive judges’ comments.
  • The top scorers will compete in the in-person Semi-Final Round.
    • Semi-finalists will be notified via email, and a list will be posted here on the website
    • Semi-finalists are not required to perform the same pieces submitted in the first round
    • Selections should be memorized and performed with live piano accompaniment unless the piece is written as unaccompanied. Competitors should acquire their own accompanist. If assistance in finding an accompanist is needed, please email competition@okcphil.org.
    • Judges will select the top competitors in each category to proceed to the Final Round.
  • Finalists perform in an in-person Final Round that is open to the public.
    • Finalists are not required to perform the same pieces as in previous rounds.
    • Selections should be memorized and performed with live piano accompaniment unless the piece is written as unaccompanied.
    • Audience may come and go but should only move through the hall between student performances.
    • Judges will select the recipients of each award.
  • Winners are announced and prizes are distributed at an awards ceremony immediately following the Final Round.
Submission Requirements

Students should submit a video performing two, preferably contrasting, pieces. Full performance should not exceed 10 minutes. In the video, students should not say their name or any identifiable information but should state the name of each piece before playing (ex. “Today I will perform Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C Major.” “I will now perform the first movement of Mozart’s Sonata in F Major.”). Memorization and accompaniment are optional in this round.

See below for a list of repertoire examples for each instrument type – these are simply suggestions to provide an understanding of expected repertoire level.

Be sure to thoroughly review the Recording Suggestions below, which includes how to set up the shot and best practices for capturing suitable audio. 

Entry fee per submission: $15


All medalists will receive a medal and potential performing opportunities next season at OKCPHIL events.

Overall Winner

  • $750 and a performance as a featured soloist with the OKCPHIL orchestra next season (in addition to their first-place category award)

Senior Division (per category, except String Quartet)

  • 1st place – $500
  • 2nd place – $250
  • 3rd place – $100

String Quartet Category (Senior Division)

  • 1st place only – $1,200 ($300/musician)

Junior Division (per category)

  • 1st place – $200
  • 2nd place – $125
  • 3rd place – $75
Competition History

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic is proud to continue the tradition of presenting a competition for talented young Oklahoma musicians, tracing its roots back many decades. 

In 1958, the Bloch Auditions, founded by Mrs. Jules Bloch, was renamed the “Young Artists Auditions” under the joint sponsorship of the Women’s Committee and the Oklahoma Federation of Music Clubs. The Women’s Committee hosted this program annually from 1960 to 1985. In 1987, the Women’s Committee became the Oklahoma City Orchestra League, and they sponsored the “Eight State Concerto Competitions” in alternating years for all orchestral musicians through age 26 until 1995.  In 1997, the League combined the longstanding “Buttram String Awards”, “Keith Awards”, and the “Young People’s Concerto Competition” to be held on the same day, under the name of the “Oklahoma Music Olympics”. Eventually named the “OCOL Music Competitions”, these prestigious, simultaneous competitions were presented by the League through February of 2020. 

Today, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic is honored to continue the tradition in partnership with the League, following the merger of the two organizations. This year, the OKCPHIL relaunched the Competition for young Oklahoma musicians, after a year-long hiatus caused by the pandemic. Moving forward, the Competition will continue to build upon the Orchestra League’s longstanding history and success, while providing unparalleled recognition and performance opportunities for the young Musicians of our state.  

With support and guidance of the League, this year’s structure returns to that of the original format, combining numerous separate divisions into one unified “Young Musicians Competition.” The Awards are named for treasured competition founders and supporters to honor their legacy and generosity, both in the past and present. 

For generations, regardless of its formal title, this special program has impacted young musicians of Oklahoma, boasting a winner’s list of fine musicians who went on to teach and perform with various orchestras across the country.  However, Margaret Keith reminds us that the true winner is our community: “You will find many of the Music Competition winners among our city’s teachers, instructors, and our own outstanding Oklahoma City Philharmonic, which means our gift of music has been given back to us many times over.”

Overview of Awards:

Buttram Award: Merle Buttram, a former Professor of Violin at the University of Oklahoma, was a founder and member of the Ladies Music Club String Orchestra that grew to become the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra in 1924. Concerned with the lack of young people studying string instruments, Mrs. Buttram, along with her husband, Frank, created the “Oklahoma Strings Awards” for elementary and high school students in 1964, which would become the “Buttram Strings Awards” for high school students in 1968. Today, Randy and Kathy Buttram follow the tradition of Randy’s parents, Dorsey and Phyllis, to continue the Buttram Awards in honor of Randy’s grandparents, Frank and Merle Buttram.

Keith Award: In 1980, Mr. and Mrs. R. Drake Keith initiated the junior high Keith Awards. Margaret Keith, a Suzuki violin teacher, noted the increased dropout rate of students during middle school and felt that a competition would encourage the development of talented young musicians. In later years, the competition included all students in 8th grade and below, some as young as 6.

Carver Award: The “Young People’s Concerto Auditions,” a high school competition for orchestral instrumentalists, began in 1970. In 1999 it evolved into the “Lauren Carver Concerto Competition” for piano, woodwinds, and brass, sponsored by Mrs. Patricia Abney in memory of her daughter. It eventually transitioned into the “Carver Competition” for brass, harp, woodwinds and percussion. Today, Ms. Lisa Carver Collins, daughter of Mrs. Abney, continues the family’s support. 

Meinders Award: In 2002, the high school piano division was given its separate designation as the “Meinders Piano Competition,” made possible by a gift from Herman Meinders in honor of his wife, LaDonna Meinders, a Past President of the Oklahoma City Orchestra League. 

Gilliam Award: In 2010, Mike and Wanda Gilliam became benefactors of the “Gilliam Piano Competition” for young students through 8th grade.  

Haire Award: The Donna Marie Haire Competition for classical guitar began in 2011 with a gift from William H. Haire, his children, and Paul Theisen in memory of their wife, mother and sister, Donna Marie Haire. 

This historical overview was compiled from Competition records donated by the Oklahoma City Orchestra League. We welcome corrections and additions, as we are passionate to learn more of our story – please contact OKCPHIL Education Manager, Jeana Gering, with information.

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