Senior Concerto Competition

The Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey holds an annual Senior Concerto Competition. The winner(s) perform with the Symphonic Orchestra, as part of the May Large Ensemble concert.


  • Student must be a senior in high school
  • Student must have been with YOCJ for at least two seasons
  • Student must complete a Preliminary Google form over the summer, due August 1st.
  • Student must prepare a complete work or movement of a work with orchestral accompaniment approximately 10 minutes in length
  • The orchestral sheet music must be easily accessible and available for YOCJ to purchase.
  • Student must complete a Google Application Form during the season – see below.
  • Student must submit a video by uploading it onto the above Google Application Form.
  • Students MUST perform their solo WITH a piano accompanist in the above video submission.
  • The annual Google Application will be due every November 15th.

Congratulations to Aryan Avadhanam!

Bravo to Aryan Avadhanam, a senior at West Windsor Plainsboro High School South. He’s the winner of the 2023 YOCJ senior solo competition. He will be playing the Eric Ewazen concerto for tenor saxophone and orchestra at the May 21 spring large ensemble concert at 7pm. More details are coming!

Congratulations to Timothy Chen & Rithika Iyengar!

Bravo to Rithika Iyengar, Clarinet, and Timothy Chen, Saxophone ~ our 2022 winners of the Senior Concerto Competition! Rithika will perform the Finzi Clarinet Concerto and Timothy will perform the Creston Saxophone Concerto on Sunday May 22, 7pm at our annual Spring Large Ensemble Concert. Details coming soon!

Congratulations to Luke Armstrong, Drew Borek, & Andrew Xu!

Bravo to Luke Armstrong, Tuba; Drew Borek, Trumpet; and Andrew Xu, Cello ~ our 2020 winners of the Senior Concerto Competition! Due to the 2020 global pandemic, they will remotely perform their solos during a YOCJ-wide YouTube Livestream on Tuesday May 26th. They will also have the opportunity to be coached by 3 accomplished clinicians.

Congratulations to Raymond Jia!

Bravo to violinist Raymond Jia, our 2019 winner of the Senior Concerto Competition! Raymond will perform the Butterfly Lovers Concerto by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang. This will be performed with the Symphonic Orchestra on the Sunday May 19 Spring Concert at 7pm at West Windsor Plainsboro High School North.

Congratulations to Justin Bi & Sarah Chen!

Bravo to trombonist Justin Bi and flautist Sarah Chen, our 2018 winners of the Senior Concerto Competition! Justin will perform the Trombone Concertino by Ferdinand David and Sarah will perform George Hue’s Fantasia. These selections will be performed with the Symphonic Orchestra on the Sunday May 20 Spring Concert at 7pm at West Windsor Plainsboro High School North.

Congratulations to Kapil Kanwar!

Bravo to cellist Kapil Kanwar, winner of the 2017 Senior Concerto Competition! Kapil will perform the final movement of the Lalo Cello Concerto with the Symphonic Orchestra, conducted by Mr. John Enz, as part of the May 21, 2017, 7pm Spring Large Ensemble concert at the West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North Auditorium.

Congratulations to Jeremy Zhang!

Jeremy Zhang is our 2016 Senior Concerto Competition winner! Jeremy plays the violin and his winning selection was Zigeunerweisen for Violin and Orchestra by Pablo de Sarasate. Jeremy will perform this piece with the Symphonic Orchestra at the 7pm Spring Large Ensemble Concert on Sunday, May 22, 2016 at the West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North Auditorium.

Congratulations to Zachary Joseph!

… our 2015 Senior Concerto Competition winner! Zachary plays the saxophone and his winning selection was Concertino for Soprano Saxophone and Orchestra by Steven Cohen, to be performed at the May 2015 Spring Large Ensemble Concert!

Program Notes for:

Concertino for Soprano Saxophone and Orchestra by Steve Cohen (2003)

The Concertino for Soprano Saxophone and Orchestra is an orchestral adaptation of my 2002 Sonata for Soprano Saxophone and Piano. The Sonata grew out of my happy and productive musical friendship with saxophonist James Noyes, the piece’s commissioner and dedicatee. Jim led the ensemble that premiered my Saxophone Quartet Nº 2 at Manhattan School of Music and repeated that performance at Weill Recital Hall the following season.

I seem to be most motivated as a composer when I feel that the music I’m writing in some way fills a need. I’m sure this is what first drew me to writing for saxophones, the “orphans of the orchestra,” if you will. When Jim suggested I write a solo piece for soprano sax, he said that it had been unjustly neglected in favor of the alto, and there was, he felt, a dire shortage of repertoire for soprano sax. This statement obviously pushed the right button in me, and set off a spark within my imagination. I started making sketches for the piece in September, 2001, put it aside for a month, resumed in earnest in December and completed it in early January, 2002.

Movement 1, Allegro assai, centers around the key of B-flat minor, and has a gentle lyricism, touched with a sense of unrest, with many uneven phrase-lengths and abrupt changes of harmony. A contrasting theme in G-flat is ardent and yearning. After a brief development section, marked “misterioso.” the main themes are reprised, and reach a resolution of calm repose.

Movement 2, Slow Blues, is in E-flat, and begins with high, gentle patterns in the piano that gradually coalesce into the accompaniment for a blues. The sax enters, playing softly (using a technique called “subtone”) in its lowest register, a mournful, world-weary song of resignation. The harmonies are those of the traditional blues form, until they break away into a new direction, built on a chromatically descending bass line. This section is repeated, with variants, in the middle register of the sax, and again, where it screams in anguish in the highest register, and then subsides to a return to the opening piano figures. Just before I started writing this movement, I learned of the death of Ralph Burns, a legendary composer/arranger from the big-band era who would go on to put his indelible stamp on Hollywood soundtracks and Broadway pit orchestras, and I was moved to dedicate this movement to that great man’s memory.

Movement 3, Allegro giocoso, is an abrupt change of mood, a rondo that continually returns to a jaunty, carefree theme in the B-flat lydian mode. A cantabile theme in D-flat is introduced, and after some development the “yearning” motive from the first movement is brought back, now sounding strong and optimistic, and the piece ends with a confident swagger. ~ by Steven Cohen


Steve Cohen received his training at the Manhattan, Eastman and Juilliard Schools of Music, and has composed a large catalog of symphonic, chamber, liturgical and musical-theater pieces.

Cohen’s choral music is published by Transcontinental/URJ Press, has been performed by the Zamir Chorale, HaZamir: The International High School Jewish Choir, Kol Zimrah (Chicago), Zemer Chai (Washington, DC), the Zemel Choir of London, the Kirkpatrick Chapel Choir, the Rutgers Glee Club, and the Gregg Smith Singers, and is heard regularly at Congregation Emanu-El of New York City and the North American Jewish Choral Festival.

Honors for Cohen’s music include the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s 2004 Composer’s Award (for Juggernaut), first and second prizes in the 2006 Susan Galloway Sacred Song Award contest (for Psalm 84 and Psalm 121), the 2007 New York Treble Singers Composition Award (for Hashkiveinu), 2006 and 2008 Shalshelet Festival Awards (for Hashkiveinu and Y’did Nefesh) and the 2008 Aeros Prize (Wind Quintet).

Steve Cohen is also active as an arranger and orchestrator for shows, concerts, and recordings.