Past Young Artist Competition Winners

Keila Wakao 2017 Young Artist Competition Winner

Keila Wakao
2017 Young Artist Competition Winner

Keila Wakao, 11, of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts began studying the violin at the age of three and developed rapidly, catching the eye and the ear of the late Mr. Joseph Silverstein who accepted Keila as a student at the age of six. She currently studies with Donald Weilerstein, Soovin Kim, Anait Arutunian and Keisuke Wakao.

Despite her young age, Keila has proven herself as a serious and competitive violinist. At the age of seven, she won the Forte International Music Competition in New York, followed by a 1st place win at the 8th Yokohama International Music Competition in Japan. Other recent accolades include: winner of Waltham Symphony Orchestra Young Artist String Competition and winner of the New England Conservatory Prep Concerto Competition.

Keila has performed with the Metrowest Symphony Orchestra, the Waltham Symphony Orchestra, the Ogaki Chamber Orchestra in Japan and performed as a soloist with the NEC Junior Repertoire Orchestra in Boston’s Jordan Hall. Keila was also selected to participate in Julia Fischer‘s violin master class and played at the final concert in Tutzing, Germany. 

This year she was invited to perform and to speak at TEDx BeaconStreet which will be held in November, 2017.

In her spare time, Keila enjoys reading, drawing, fashion design, and studying the Japanese language.

Khoi Le
2016 Young Artist Competition Winner


The New England Philharmonic, under the direction of Richard Pittman, has announced the winner of their 22nd Young Artist Competition, 13-year-old Lexington native and pianist Khoi Le. “Khoi impressed us with his very mature phrasing of the music, for his over-arching concept of the movement, and for his very clear, firm tone on the piano.  He’s a compelling soloist,” said NEP Music Director Richard Pittman, who presided over the competition.

Le has been invited to perform the first movement of Camille Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor at NEP’s annual Family Concert on December 11 at 3 p.m. at the Tsai Performance Center.

Le’s musical journey began at the age of five when his parents introduced him to the piano. It was love at first sight. His immediate connection with piano and his early successes have been encouraged by his parents and teachers. At the young age of 13, he has already taken first prize at the San Francisco Chopin Competition for Young Pianists, and he is a recipient of the Nafisa Taghioff Award in the Fremont Symphony Young Artist Concerto Competition. He has performed in the Berkeley Junior Bach Festival in California as well as with the Fremont Symphony Orchestra.

While the piano is his main instrument, Le enjoys playing the violin, cello, bassoon and percussion and currently serves as the percussionist at the William Diamond Middle School band and orchestra, Tufts Youth Philharmonic and the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra. He also enjoys composing music and is taking music theory and composition seminars at the New England Conservatory of Music.

1st Runner-up: Joe MacDonald, violin
2nd Runner-up: Hayden Idson, cello

Amir Siraj
2015 Young Artist Competition Winner

Amir Siraj-NEPYACWThe New England Philharmonic (NEP) has named 15 year-old pianist Amir Siraj from Brookline, Massachusetts winner of their 21st Annual Young Artist Competition. Siraj performed Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the NEP under the direction of Richard Pittman, at their annual family concert Musical Characters on December 13 at 3 p.m. at the Tsai Performance Center. The concert also featured Rob Kapilow’s Elijah’s Angel featuring David Kravitz and Dana Whiteside, baritones and the Boston City Singers as well as John Harbison’s Remembering Gatsby, and George Atheil’s Tom Sawyer Overture.

Amir Siraj began piano lessons at the age of four. Hailed by TheaterJones as a “gentle” yet “passionate” interpreter, he has performed at venues including Carnegie Hall and Symphony Hall.

A top prize winner at local, national, and international competitions, he has been invited to perform by organizations including The Cliburn, the American Liszt Society, the Harvard Musical Association, and the Bowdoin International Music Festival. He has performed many world premieres including chamber works by Stephen Feigenbaum and solo works by Larry Bell, in addition to US premieres of Lera Auerbach. He has studied under the likes of Peter Serkin, Douglas Humphreys,

Amir Siraj, 15, performs during the preliminary round of the Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival, in Fort Worth, Texas. (Cliburn/Rodger Mallison)

Hung-Kuan Chen, and Bruce Brubaker. Amir is a student of Helena Vesterman, and also attends the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. He is currently a junior at Brookline High School. Other activities Amir devotes time to include rowing, choir, his mobile payments startup, and his high school’s Innovation Club, which he founded.

Cellist Wangshu Xiang 16, of Natick
Violinist Joe MacDonald, 12, of Watertown

Austin Kwoun
2014 Young Artist Competition Winner

Austin Kwoune's head shot
Austin Kwoun

The New England Philharmonic has named 14-year-old violinist Austin Kwoun from Belmont, Massachusetts, winner of their 20th Annual Young Artist Competition. Kwoun performed the Cadenza and Burlesque of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Opus 77 with the NEP, under the direction of Richard Pittman, at their annual family concert “All Aboard” on December 14th. The concert also featured the Boston premiere of Michael Gandolfi’s Night Train to Perugia; Rob Kapilow Chris van Allsburg’s Polar Express, featuring David Kravitz, baritone and Newton Public Schools’ All City Treble Singers; Arthur Honegger’s Pacific 231 and Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Little Train of Caipira & Toccata from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2.

Austin Kwoun began his musical studies on the violin at the age of eight under the tutelage of Ms. Jin Kyung Joen at the New England Conservatory (NEC) Preparatory School in Boston.  Kwoun, now fourteen, is a member of the NEC’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra,  a core member of the Boston Youth Music Charity Group, and performs in various local venues to raise money for UNICEF and Cradles to Crayons.  As a young musician, Austin has garnered numerous awards and accolades, including: the 2013 Lowell Philharmonic Orchestra’s Director’s Choice Award at the Jeanne Selander Concerto Competition, first place at the 2013 Ellen Huff Powers Young Artist Competition, and first place at the 2013 Roman Totenberg Young Musician String Competition. Earlier this year he placed second at the American Protégé International Romantic Music Competition and performed at Carnegie Hall. He also attended the Foulger International Music Festival, where he was chosen to participate in a master class with Joseph Lin of the Julliard String Quartet and to perform at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Austin is currently a ninth grader at the Belmont Hill School. He is a passionate baseball player and fan, and follows every move of the Boston Red Sox.  He is also an avid reader and writer, and enjoys squash and golf in his free time.

Cellist Mari Nagahari, 16, of Andover, who performed Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in b minor, Op. 104, B 191
Violinist Henri Bouchard, 16, of Ayer, who performed Vieuxtemps’ Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor, Op. 37