Dr. Duane and Judy Hellam

Duane & Judy Hellam

Duane & Judy Hellam

Our goals are to develop a format and an organization which functions to accomplish the following mission statement:

  • To foster an environment that welcomes participation of talented and aspiring young (18-26 years of age) musicians whatever their musical discipline, and to provide for each competitor high expertise in the evaluation and judging of their performances relative to their peers.
  • To make those evaluations available to the competitors by means of post-competition conferences with the jurors.
  • To reward the work and accomplishments of these artists appropriately via cash prizes and the possibility of guest performances with the Springfield Symphony.
  • To guard and maintain the legitimacy and the integrity of The Competition so as to maintain the value of the judgements and awards of The Competition to the professional artistic credentials of each competitor.


In the autumn of 1996, Maestra Apo Hsu, then Musical Director and Conductor of the Springfield Symphony asked us if we would consider founding, funding and operating, under the aegis of the Springfield Symphony Association, a competition for young musical artists age 18 – 24 years. We pondered and agreed, went to work, and the first competition was held in the spring of 1997. The effort was, initially, joined by Dr. Caroline Kerber and the competition was named The Hellam – Kerber Midwest Young Artists’ Competition (1997 – 1999). In 1999 Dr. Kerber took a professional position elsewhere and, in 2000, the effort reverted to The Hellam Young Artists’ Competition. At that time the Midwest focus was enlarged to a national scope. That expanded focus began to manifest itself immediately, a reassuring reflection of the initial intent of The Competition. There has been a consistent and growing interest nationally and internationally since that time with participants coming from music schools, conservatories and universities all over the United States and with the addition of musicians from many countries who have come to the states to study. They have come from Germany, Bulgaria, Russia, Lithuania, Taiwan, Japan, The Republic of China, Pakistan, and The Republic of Georgia.

All here who’ve been involved with the work of The Competition or have been members of the audiences have been awed by the virtuosity of these young artists and by their personal warmth, presence, and character.

To date, over 475 young artists have competed. A total of 52 prizes have been awarded to which have been added, on occasion, a special Honorable Mention prize from The Joseph Schellhardt Memorial Fund, as determined by the directors of the fund. Seventeen first prizes have been awarded reflecting three ties for 1st prize.

It is sometimes easy to think of ourselves and of our larger musical and arts communities as prime beneficiaries of The Competitions. We are, instead, essential participants in this endeavor because we serve as the audience sounding board to which they offer their life-long work to extend and polish their God-given talents from Competition Recital Hall to Symphony Concert Stage. We, as audiences, thus become critically important benefactors of our effort in the same sense as are the organization and integrity of The Competition and the wisdom of the professional juries on which we rely for selecting the prize-winners.

It is these young artists, themselves, who are the major beneficiaries of these efforts. It is why the plural possessive Artists’ is in the name of this Competition. Their work here and in other Competitions is the means by which they develop and extend their Curricula vitae. These are, of course, as important to them as to students and young professionals in every academic and professional endeavor. As for us: organizers, fans, audiences, we are well-intentioned and lucky voyeurs of the process by which virtuoso musical careers are fashioned.