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 were chosen to play in the Finals/Winners recital on February 26, 2012. Winner was Quartet Tzigane.
2013: the competition formed partnerships with MNSOTA (Minnesota String & Orchestra Teachers Association) and MacPhail Center for Music, and made some changes to the competition: It offered three levels: Level A for experienced chamber music players; Level B (Apprentice level) for younger, less experienced chamber music players; and Level C for judging comments only. A live Semifinal round was added to the competition. The Level B winner was the French Trio; Level A winner was the Luna String Quartet.
2014: the competition adopted online application through Acceptd.com. and 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 SPCO's new Concert Hall at the Ordway on April 24.
In 2016, the competition rounds 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. Level B winner was Trio Giovane. In Level A there were two second place winners: the Andres String Quartet and the Vento Silva Quintet. The Grand Prize was awarded to the Vesper Quartet,
2017: The competition separated Strings and Winds into two separate categories, with prizes in each category and the Grand Prize for overall best ensemble. Placing second in Winds was The Perfect Fourth. First place was awarded to the Woodwinks Quintet. Placing second in Strings was the Abderian Quartet. First place and Grand Prize were awarded to the Donovan Quintet.