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On Friday, May 4th at 7:30 pm, the winners of MetroArt’s 24th Van Buren Young Artists Debut! Competition will be performing in concert at Trinity Episcopal Church. Eight musicians, ages 11-21, will be performing with an orchestra made up of members of the Oregon Symphony and Oregon Ballet Theatre’s orchestras under the baton of Niel DePonte, Executive Artistic Director for MetroArts Inc. 

The winners were selected from over 30 semi-finalists last January. As Niel DePonte remarks on the MetroArts website, “It was an incredibly difficult choice this year. There were 8 soloists I had to turn down because I just didn’t have room on the program for them. Every year the level of competition grows. This year the number of fine string players was truly amazing.” 

All Classical Portland is honored to be broadcasting the Young Artists Debut concert again this year, with Christa Wessel hosting. This concert will on the air and streamed online worldwide later in the month. 

I asked Christa Wessel a few questions about her experience hosting this special event and meeting the accomplished young artists behind the magic: 


You’ve been interviewing the winners of the Van Buren Young Artists competition for All Classical’s On Deck With Young Musicians program. What has it been like to get to know these talented musicians? 


As with all of the young people I feature “On Deck,” the winners of the MetroArts competition are all incredibly passionate about music.  When I interview these MetroArts winners, though, I am inspired by their drive to perfect their art.  Their work with Niel Deponte (Executive Artistic Director) is rigorous and intense – for months before the concert, they’re breaking down their music with Maestro Deponte, learning more than just their solo part.  They’re examining what’s happening in the orchestral background, too.  Additionally, in this months-long coaching period leading up to the Young Artists Debut concert, they’re learning about all aspects of performance.  It’s quite a journey they’ve signed up for, and it is heartening to see so many young people compete -year after year- to be a part of this MetroArts experience.  


How many years have you been hosting the broadcast of the Young Artists Debut concert? What do you find special about hosting this event?  


All Classical Portland has partnered with MetroArts Inc in broadcasting these concerts since 2013.  It’s an incredibly inspiring event.  These young artists (8 of them this year) have been working hard for most of the year in order to give the best performance of their lives — to see all of their hard work come to fruition is so exciting.  Keep in mind that these young musicians are performing in front of a fully professional orchestra (comprised of musicians from the Oregon Symphony and Oregon Ballet Theater orchestras) — the pressure is on, and the vibe in the hall is electric! 


From your perspective, what is the importance of the Young Artists Debut concert to our cultural community? Why is it important that All Classical is able to broadcast this event to our listeners? 


I often hear people bemoan the future of classical music. “Kids these days just aren’t interested,” they say.  Attending this MetroArts Young Artist concert will disavow you of that notion, pronto!  😊 These kids are inspring not only to the audience in attendance on May 4th… but also to the professional musicians on stage, many of whom have told me that this is one of their favorite “gigs” of the year.  These kids may not go on to be professional musicians, but their devotion to the art form is inspiring to everyone in the concert hall.  If you’re not able to attend, I hope you’ll listen to the broadcast on May 12th! 


Tune in to All Classical Portland on Saturday, May 12th at 5:00 pm to hear the 2018 winners of the Young Artists Debut! Van Buren Competition.  Tickets for the May 4th concert can be purchased at  

Photo: Megan Reich

Megan Reich

Intern: Winter 2018