Picture yourself as a kid – you’re racing your friends at recess across the monkey bars to see who can get across the fastest. You’ve been practicing after school, and knew today you’d win. And you do! Sweet victory is yours – The Monkey Bar Champion. Roaring cheers rise from your classmates below. You’re on top of the world… at least for the next three minutes. And then life goes back to normal. Sure, you’re the fastest, but eventually, you and your friends move on, you accomplish bigger and better things.

We often say that winning the Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA) Competition is unlike winning any other competition. And here’s one of the biggest differences – unlike our Monkey Bar Champion, these winners are given an entire future of development, advice, growth opportunities and connection to a team of people who care about their journey. They’re given a lifetime experience.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the YYPA Program. “Yamaha has supported this program without interruption for three decades, which points to our strong commitment to education and nurturing young musicians and their development,” says my boss and mentor, John Wittmann, Director of Artist Relations and Education for Yamaha’s Band and Orchestral Division. John has been a part of the YYPA Program for more than 20 years. He’s seen many winners come through, and been along for the ride as they’ve accepted positions in major symphony orchestras throughout the world, prestigious universities, developed strong solo performance careers and more.

So, what’s been happening with the 2018 YYPA winners since they set foot in Indiana just a couple of days ago? They’ve been involved in intentional conversation about where they want their careers to go and how to set goals to make those dreams achievable. Yesterday, we challenged them to take a moment of pause in the midst of these conversations to really think about what they’re working for – what they’re pursuing, why music and where they want to go.

They’ve also been practicing with our 2018 Featured Yamaha Performing Artist Allen Vizzutti and collaborative pianist Linda Mark for tonight’s 30th Anniversary YYPA Concert. These students put in a lot of time, energy and effort before getting here to make their performance brilliant. The polishing happens here, and the hard work is funneled into a 7-minute performance. When they set foot on the stage and hear the roaring crowd (yes, even an oboist gets a “rock star” standing ovation!!). It’s unlike any other they’ll experience. We believe that to be undeniably true.

After the concert tonight, we’ll celebrate and talk about how amazing the performances were. But what I love even more than talking about their talent is that we all stand together and talk about how much we learned throughout the weekend – about each other, about ourselves, about why we’re doing this thing called music. It’s through the YYPA Celebration Weekend that we invite these winners into our tight-knit family. And family sticks together, challenges and encourages through many stages of life and career.