This competition is dedicated to the memory of Pat Whitacre, long-time member of the Friends of the SPCO, and its third president. 


This competition is dedicated to the memory of Patricia Hill Whitacre, longtime member of the Friends of the SPCO and its third president. Pat loved chamber music and was a friend to many SPCO musicians and staff members. When she died in 2005 the Friends of the SPCO established a memorial fund in her name. A portion of that fund was used to establish the competition. Grand Prize winners are awarded the Whitacre Medal.

fabulous violin

Mission Statement

The Friends of the SPCO sees the SPCO Youth Chamber Music Competition as an educational opportunity for young instrumentalists living or studying in Minnesota to form small groups to expand their knowledge of chamber music, improve their orchestral skills, polish repertoire, and enjoy the fun and stimulation of playing with others. 

The competition fits with one of the goals of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: to serve the community and music through collaboration, outreach and education.

History Of the Competition

The Friends of the SPCO began drawing up initial plans for a chamber music competition for pre-college students in 2010.  They formed a partnership with the SPCO staff and musicians and established an Advisory Board of prominent music supporters and experts in instrumental music. 

2012: The first competition was held in the SPCO Center. Members of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra judged the DVD round and the Final round.Three ensembles, two string quartets and one piano quartet, were chosen to play in the Finals/Winners recital on February 26, 2012. Winner was Quartet Tzigane, a piano quartet.

2013: the competition formed partnerships with  MNSOTA (Minnesota String & Orchestra Teachers Association) and MacPhail Center for Music, and made several changes to the competition: It offered three levels: Level A for experienced chamber music players; Level B (Apprentice level) for less experienced chamber music players; and Level C for judging comments only. A live Semifinal round was added to the competition, and it was held at MacPhail Center for Music. Level B winner was the French Trio; Level A winner was the Luna String Quartet.

2014:  the competition adopted online application through The competition also had its first wind ensemble applications. Trio Tesoro, won first prize in Level B and the wind prize. Level A winner was The Fabulous Appoggiatura Quartet.

2015:  the competition expanded its staff and budget to work on publicity and social media. For the first time there was a tie for 3rd place.  Level B was won by Quartetto Caffeinato. The winning A group, the Ampere String Quartet, performed in the new Concert Hall at the Ordway on April 24. 

In 2016, finals and semifinals moved to a new venue: Sundin Hall, Hamline University, St. Paul. Ten ensembles participated in the Semifinals, with equal numbers of wind groups and string groups in Level A. Level B winner was Trio Giovane. Level A First Prize went to the Vesper Quartet, and there were two second place winners: the Andres String Quartet and  the Vento Silva Quintet, which also won the wnd prize. 

2017: We established two separate categories: Strings and Winds, with prizes in each category and a Grand Prize for overall best ensemble. A special Percussion Prize was added.