On February 23, 2019, the Des Moines Symphony Youth Orchestras Honors String Quartet competed in and were awarded First Place in the Finals of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Youth Chamber Music Competition. The Honors String Quartet is made up of a select group of four students who have demonstrated exceptional musicianship and dedication through the Des Moines Symphony Youth Orchestra. Members include Beau Henson, first violin, a senior from Gilbert High School; Olivia Wong, second violin, a senior from Ames High School; Dorothy Junginger, viola, a sophomore from Valley High School; and Joanna Kim, cello, a senior from Ames High School.

The quartet was selected based on a video audition to compete in the Finals of the Senior Classical Division. Only nine chamber music ensembles were selected to perform at the Finals, which were held in Sundin Music Hall on the Hamline University Saint Paul campus. This regional competition attracted young musicians from Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin and was adjudicated by professional musicians, composers, and professors with connections to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

The quartet was awarded $1,000 and Whitacre medals for their performance, in addition to the opportunity to play before a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert this May. They were also offered attendance and scholarships at two prestigious summer music festivals.

Mary Pshonik, a cellist with the Des Moines Symphony and faculty member at the Des Moines Symphony Academy, has served as the ensemble’s coach and advocate throughout the season. “It has been a joy to coach such a remarkably talented group,” said Pshonik. “The Quartet, their wonderful parents, and I are delighted that their hard work has been rewarded with even more opportunities to grow from making beautiful music together.”

This was the Honors String Quartet’s second weekend in a row competing in chamber music competitions. The ensemble traveled to Chicago last weekend to compete in the Discover National Chamber Music Competition at Ravinia Festival’s Bennett Gordon Hall, where their performance was well received by judges. The Quartet also hopes to travel to Kansas City later this spring to participate in a masterclass for which they have been nominated.