YSC 2023- 2024 Winners

The New Jersey Wind Symphony congratulates all of the talented finalists of the 2023 – 2024 Youth Soloist Competition.

First Place Winner

Irene Lee – Oboe

Irene Lee, a fifteen year-old oboist, had already proven herself to be a talented musician since the start of her musical career at the age of eleven. After winning her first competition in six months, Irene’s love for the oboe only grew as she stepped into the realm of classical music. During her musical career, Irene had won numerous international and national competitions including the NJWS Youth Soloist Competition, the Adelphi Young Artist Competition, the National League of Performing Arts Competition, the Camerata Artists International Competition, LISMA, NYYVC, among others.

As a soloist, she made her debut in Merkin Concert Hall and later in Carnegie Hall. Afterwards she performed with the Little Orchestra Society in the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, the New Virtuoso Orchestra, and will perform with the Juilliard Pre-college Symphony.

Furthermore, Irene was accepted into NYO2 in the summers of both 2023 and 2024, participated in the Juilliard Summer Wind Festival, and won first place in Juilliard’s Open Concerto Competition in 2024. Irene currently studies with the world-renowned Elaine Douvas and Yousun Chung at Juilliard Pre-college.

Beyond her musical pursuits, Irene harbors a passion for creative writing, dancing, and singing.

Second Place Winner

Nathan Spergel – French Horn

Nathan Spergel is a senior at Livingston High School and is principal horn of the LHS Wind Symphony. The past two years, he has served as Brass Captain and Drum Major for the LHS Marching Band and had previously played bass in the Lancer Jazz Band. He is currently in his third season as a member of the New Jersey Youth Symphony’s top orchestra, serving as Principal Horn for the past two years. Additionally, Nathan was Principal Horn of the 2024 NJMEA All State Wind Ensemble and 2023 All State Orchestra, as well as the 2023 and 2024 NJMSA Region 1 Bands. This summer, he will be touring South America as a member of Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute’s National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA) under the direction of Marin Alsop. Nathan will be majoring in horn performance this fall.

Third Place Winner

Hong Chen – Clarinet

Hong Cheng resides in Edison, NJ as a high school senior at John P. Stevens High School. Music has always impacted him as he was surrounded by musical arts since youth (having both parents major in music in college). High School further elaborated his love for music, hence holding the roles of clarinet soloist/woodwinds section leader of the JPS Marching Band, being the co-principal clarinetist for the Central Jersey Region Band, Region Orchestra, and the New Jersey All State Orchestra. Furthermore, Hong has also had the opportunity to be the concertmaster of the NAFME All Eastern Symphonic Band and the Music for All National Honor Band of America. Other than participating in ensembles, Hong has also won the YoungArts Classical Music Competition and the MTNA State Competition twice, being a finalist who competed in Atlanta for the Woodwind National Competition this year. In terms of summer festivals, Hong has been accepted to multiple programs from the Interlochen and Boston University Tanglewood Institute Summer Camps on scholarships. Hong has also given back to the community with music by creating a non-profit organization with his cellist friend called “Voice of Hope.” This organization was created during Covid-19 and provided hope for everyone recovering from the pandemic with music and concerts (still happening), while also donating money to hospitals. Hong will continue to strive to become a better musician, exploring different options throughout his life.