Jaia Alli (first prize)

Jaia Alli, an eighteen-year-old cellist from Atlanta, Georgia, won the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra’s 2024 Youth Concerto Competition.  A twelfth-grade student at the Westminster Schools who studies privately with Daniel Laufer (Associate Principal Cello of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), Alli captured first prize performing the final movement of Edward Elgar’s Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. The top prize includes a cash award plus the opportunity to perform with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra during the 2024-2025 season.

Second prize was awarded to violinist Eugenie Lim, age seventeen

Eugenie Lim

from Kennesaw, Georgia, while third prize was awarded to eighteen-year-old double bassist Devin O’Brien from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.  A Special Achievement Award was presented to 11-year-old cellist Yuna Ella Chae from Pooler, Georgia, who received a $750 scholarship to the Philadelphia International Music Festival (PIMF). (All finalists received PIMF scholarships.) A total of nine competitors were chosen from over 30 total applicants from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina and performed in the finals of the competition on Saturday, January 27, 2024, which was livestreamed from SoundWaves at Coligny, the HHSO’s intimate performance venue.  The other finalists were violinists Ellie Dixon (Charlotte, NC), Lauren Juntunen (Melbourne, FL), B. Andrew Lee (Johns Creek, GA), and Yining Zhang (Suwanee, GA), and cellist Adam Kremer (Charleston, SC).

Devin O’Brien

Finals judges for the 2024 competition were HHSO Concertmaster Micah Gangwer, HHSO Principal Violist Lizhou Liu, and HHSO Principal Cellist Daniel Mumm. Pianist Keru Zhang accompanied six competitors, while Sharon Berenson accompanied three during the finals.

Produced annually since 2008 by the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, the Youth Concerto Competition (YCC) is one of the largest and most prestigious competitions in the Southeastern United States. The competition is restricted to young artists living in nine states—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia—because of limited performance solo opportunities in this region.  Past YCC winners and finalists have gone on to earn degrees at the nation’s top music schools, including Juilliard, Curtis, Peabody, New England Conservatory, Oberlin, Eastman, Cleveland Institute of Music, Yale, and Vanderbilt, as well as the Royal Conservatory in Toronto.

“Over the years, we have provided solo opportunities for more than 150 young musicians,” stated Hilton Head International Piano Competition and Education and Community Engagement Director, Steve Shaiman.  “These talented students gain invaluable experience as a YCC finalist, since most of them aspire to be professional musicians, and our competition helps prepare them for college auditions and other competitions.  Many of our past finalists now enjoy thriving careers, and we are proud to support and nurture these young artists of the future.”

A link to the 2024 Youth Concerto Competition livestream video follows: https://www.youtube.com/live/ZOCC4Humox8?si=1ajVzXV_vr1UtVg5&t=1984.


Photos by thefrenchguyphotograhy