The Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra named harpist Grace Roepke the grand prize winner in its 60th Young Artists Competition, held Jan. 20 in the Twin Cities. With a cash prize totaling $8,500, Roepke was also awarded a concerto performance with the Minnesota Orchestra in a future season’s subscription concert. She is the first harpist to ever win the grand prize, though Nuiko Wadden won first prize in 2005. “One of the things that I really enjoyed about the competition was how kind everyone involved was,” Roepke says. “This includes the staff, judges, and all of my fellow competitors. Everyone was supportive of one another no matter the outcome, and it really made the competition itself less stressful and much more enjoyable.”
The annual competition is open to orchestral musicians ages 25 and under and is judged by the orchestra’s musicians. Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä joined the judging for the final round, on which Roepke performed the Ginastera Concerto and Faure’s Impromptu. “Since the competition is for all instruments,” she says, “I wanted to showcase the variety of repertoire and [show]that the harp is comparable to any of the other instruments competing. It was so rewarding to see that the judges appreciated my musical choices and acknowledged how technically demanding the harp is!”
Roepke is currently a senior at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studies with Yolanda Kondonassis. In 2018, she performed the Ginastera Concerto with the Cleveland Institute of Music Symphony Orchestra, after competing in the school’s concerto competition. Originally from Minneapolis, Roepke previously studied with Phala Tracy.