2024 Youth Competition Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2024 MSO Youth Concerto Competition!

  • Valerie Lai – Edward Elgar, Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85, I. Adagio-Moderato
  • Raymond Lim – Camille Saint-Saëns, Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso in A Minor, Op. 28
  • Emma Zou – George Enescu, Concert Piece for Viola and Orchestra

Since launching the youth concerto competition in 2016, the MSO has showcased multiple winning soloists, providing an opportunity for musicians in middle and high school to perform with us at our annual concert. We look forward to performing with these talented soloists at our concert on Sunday, June 9th, 2024!

About Valerie Lai
Valerie Lai, age 15, started playing the cello when she was nine. She is a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. She currently studies with Ms. Danielle Cho, Assistant Principal Cellist of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.

Valerie is a 2024 National Young Arts Winner in Classical Music and the 2023-2024 Virginia State Winner of the Music Teachers National Association Senior String Performance Competition. She won first place in the 2023 Richmond Symphony League Concerto Competition and made her solo debut with the Richmond Symphony at the age of 14.

Valerie was the Principal Cellist of the American Youth Philharmonic. She also plays in her high school orchestra, the Northern Virginia Senior Regional Orchestra, and the Virginia All-State Orchestra for the 2023-2024 school year. Valerie enjoys playing chamber music. Her piano quartet was a semifinalist in the 2024 International Chamber Music Ensemble Competition.

Besides playing the cello, Valerie loves baking, trivia, action movies and political dramas, and singing duets with her younger sister.

About Raymond Lim
Raymond Lim is a violinist from Gaithersburg, Maryland and currently enrolled as a ninth grader at Poolesville High School. He has been in the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Youth Fellowship Program since 2023 and studies violin with NSO musicians. Raymond has been a proud member of the Maryland Classical Youth Orchestra and served as concertmasters for various orchestras. Raymond received various awards including 1st place in YMIC Washington National Youth Music Competition, 1st place in NVMTA Concerto Competition, 1st place in the Crescendo International Music Competition, and 1st place in the Asian American Music Society International Music Competition. Raymond performed as a soloist at venues such as the Millennium Stage and the REACH in Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and National Gallery of Art after winning the aforementioned competitions. His chamber group, “Dvorak String Quintet,” won 1st place in the 2023 Rushmore Summer Music Festival, which he attended with a full scholarship. As an avid volunteer musician, Raymond regularly plays his violin music for patients and hospital staff at many hospitals and cancer clinics.

About Emma Zou
Emma Zou, 17, is a senior at Poolesville High School, Maryland and will be studying applied mathematics, computer science, and music at Brown University in the fall. Her musical journey began when she picked up piano 11 years ago, which she continues to play for fun and collaboratively with younger students. Emma started learning viola 6 years ago, and quickly fell in love with its soulful timbre, unique role, and fantastic people. She is currently co-principal violist of the Maryland Classical Youth Orchestras’ Philharmonic Orchestra, and a violist in the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Youth Fellowship Chamber Music program. She is a Boston University Tanglewood Institute and NSO Summer Music Institute Orchestra alumna as well. Emma has performed at the Kennedy Center, National Gallery of Art, Bulgarian Embassy, Strathmore Music Center, and more. She has won top prizes and opportunities in competitions like the Enkor International Music Competition, YMIC Classical Music Competition, and VIVO International Music Competition.

Some of Emma’s favorite musical memories include hanging out backstage before orchestra performances, late game nights at summer programs, and nervous bonding with strangers in auditions. Outside of music, Emma enjoys doing jigsaw and number puzzles, planning food adventures, making charms, and decorating her viola case.