Semi-Finalists Announced for the 40th Annual Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition

Semi-Finalists Announced for the 40th Annual Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition

The Houston Symphony and the Houston Symphony League announced today the semi-finalists for the 40th annual Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition, the country's only orchestra-run multi-instrumental competition. Half of this year's semi-finalists are from Houston and have ties to Rice University.

The Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition - a partnership between the Houston Symphony League and the Houston Symphony - is one of the foremost instrumental competitions in the world and was named to honor the memory of Miss Ima Hogg, a co-founder of the Houston Symphony. It provides performance opportunities for musicians ages 13-30, often raising their profile in the orchestral world and helping them win significant accolades and receive principal posts with major orchestras.

Chaired by Jennifer Gravenor, an active member of the Houston Symphony League and Houston Symphony Young Associates Council, this year's Competition will feature ten outstanding young musicians selected from a pool of nearly 100 candidates ranging from a wide variety of instruments and nationalities. Five of these rising stars are from Houston: Esther Liao (18), Hewen Ma (16), Boson Mo (25), Seth Morris (20) and Erik Wheeler (20). These Houston-area artists have appeared in various regional and national competitions, including the Montreal International ViolinCompetition, the International Jacques Taddei Music Competition and the National Flute Association Young Artist Competitions, among others. Semi-finalists Boson, Erik and Hewen are currently pursuing degrees at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music.

On Thursday, June 4, the semi-finalists will perform portions of two concertos from memory in front of a judging panel for the possibility to advance to the Finals. On Saturday, June 6 - after a competitive selection process - four finalists will perform one of their concertos with the Houston Symphony in front of a live audience at Rice University's Stude Concert Hall. The panel of judges will include a music critic, a conductor and an artist managers.

Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition Prizes

The winner of the First Prize, The Grace Woodson Memorial Award, will get a cash prize of $25,000, made possible thanks to the generosity of Symphony patrons John and Tracy Dennis in honor of his grandmother. The winner will also get the once-in-a lifetime opportunity to perform with the Houston Symphony this summer at the Houston Chronicle Dollar Concert at Jones Hall on Saturday, July 11, and will complete a week-long Education and Community Engagement residency with the Houston Symphony.

The recipient of the Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition Second Place Award - presented by the Houston Symphony League in recognition of Jerry Priest, founding Chair of the Competition and member of the Houston Symphony League - will take home a $10,000 cash prize and also get the chance to perform with the Houston Symphony this summer at Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday, June 27.

Air travel of the semi-finalists is generously provided by United Airlines, the official airline of the Houston Symphony. The Lancaster Hotel provides accommodations for the conductor and the panel of judges. The partnership with the Rice University allows the Symphony to host the Competition at the Shepherd School of Music year after year. The competitors' accommodations, are provided thanks to the hospitality of Houston Symphony volunteer host families. The underwriting support of this prestigious annual event is provided by generous sponsors, including Mr. and Mrs. John P. Dennis III and Mr. John Neighbors.


Samuel Chan (22 years old), marimba

Home: Hong Kong, China

Current: Boston, MA

Bixby Kennedy (23 years old), clarinet

Home: Maryville, TN

Current: New Haven, CT

Zeyu Victor Li (18 years old), violin

Home: Huainan, China

Current: Philadelphia, PA

Esther Liao (18 years old), piano

Home: Houston, TX

Current: Houston, TX

Hewen Ma (16 years old), piano

16 years old

Home: Dalian, China

Current: Houston, TX

Boson Mo (25 years old), violin

Home: Montreal, Quebec

Current: Houston, TX

Seth Morris (30 years old), flute

Home: Simpsonville, KY

Current: Houston, TX

Stephanie Ng (25 years old), piano

Home: Fremont, CA

Current: Los Angeles, CA

Erik Wheeler (20 years old), cello

Home: Houston, TX

Current: Houston, TX

Sang Yhee (26 years old), cello