Martha McCrory Young Artists Competition

1965 – Young Artists Linda Blackwood, piano, and David Rosenboom, violin, with trombonist Dr. Guy Tourney and conductor Harold Bauer.

1965 – Young Artists Linda Blackwood, piano, and
David Rosenboom, violin, with trombonist Dr. Guy Tourney and conductor Harold Bauer.

Since 1953, the Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association has sponsored a competition for young musicians. The purpose of the competition is to give outstanding high school musicians the opportunity to perform as a concert soloist, accompanied by a symphony orchestra. Such a performance can be a springboard for a young person to choose a lifelong commitment to the arts. The contest winners receive special publicity which can improve their scholarship opportunities as they move on to higher education. The annual Young Artists Concert rewards excellence in musicianship and enriches not just the performer, but also the audience and orchestra members.

“There are so many wonderful young musicians in the area who should take advantage of this competition. Often, musicians do not enter because of the many other priorities and activities in their busy lives as teenagers,” says Jane Polett, general manager of the Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association. “It is important for them to realize that the opportunity to be a soloist with a symphony orchestra is extremely uncommon. Any former winner would tell them that the hard work and time commitment to prepare the concert piece was well worth it.”

The competition is open to current 10th-12th graders who attend school within a 75 mile radius of Quincy. The Young Artists Competition is sponsored by Encore Symphony Volunteer Council and the Estate of Martha McCrory.

Area instrumentalists and vocalists in grades 10 through 12 are invited to participate in the 68th Annual Young Artists Competition on Saturday, December 16, 2023. The winner(s) of this regional contest perform as a guest soloist with the Quincy Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, February 10, 2024, at 3:00pm.

The deadline for applications is Friday, November 17, 2023.

Application forms and competition rules and procedures are available below or by calling the Symphony Office at 217/222-2856.

Annual Young Artist Competition Downloads

Young Artist Application

Young Artist Requirements

The Martha McCrory Young Artists Competition and Concert are partially supported by
The Estate of Martha McCrory
Encore Symphony Volunteer Council
The Illinois Arts Council Agency
The Marion Gardner Jackson Charitable Trust

Martha McCrory – Her legacy lives on!

George Irwin and Martha McCrory following her 1957 solo performance with the QSO

Martha was born in Illinois Aug. 15, 1920, to Florence Bastert and Joseph Willis McCrory. She graduated from Quincy High School in 1937 and the University of Michigan in 1941.

Her musical career, which began with piano lessons at age 6, blossomed at age 8 when she was introduced by Paul Morrison to a half-sized cello. High school summers were spent at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Mich. College summers were spent at Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Mills College in Oakland, Calif.

In 1940, she auditioned for Leopold Stokowski, conductor and organizer of the All-American Youth Orchestra, which was sponsored by the State Department. Martha was chosen from among 40,000 applicants from across the country. The orchestra performed in major venues on the East Coast, followed by a magnificent tour of South America, including concerts from Barbados to Buenos Aires.

After graduation from the University of Michigan she was accepted to Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. There she studied with Luigi Silva, played in the Rochester Philharmonic and taught cello in the Eastman preparatory department. She earned a master's degree, a performer's certificate and an artist's diploma. Additional studies followed at the University of London. Immediately afterward, Martha spent five years with the San Antonio Symphony and in a faculty position at Trinity College.

Upon the death of her father, Martha moved to Tulsa, Okla., to be with her mother. There she became a stockbroker and played in the Tulsa Philharmonic. When its conductor, Julius Hegyi, was hired by the Chattanooga Symphony, he offered Martha a job as cellist and orchestra manager. She joined the faculties of both the University of Tennessee and Cadek Conservatory of Music.

In 1957, she was tagged by the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., to develop a summer music program. Martha and her mother moved to Sewanee, where she taught at the University and directed the Sewanee Summer Music Center. Her worldwide contacts and numerous experiences were invaluable in building a world-class music program. She was praised for her talent, commitment and drive, which enabled her to influence thousands of young musicians. In 1997, Music Educators' Journal listed the Sewanee Summer Music Center among the top three music camps in the country. "Miss Mac" retired in 1998 and was presented with an honorary doctorate from the University of the South in appreciation for 42 years of outstanding service. In 2006, she was the lead donor in the building of the Martha McCrory Hall for the Performing Arts on the campus of Saint Andrew's-Sewanee school.

She was honored with numerous citations over the years. She received the Governor of Tennessee's Award for Outstanding Achievement and was named a Governor's Outstanding Tennessean. She was appointed to the advisory panel for music by the Tennessee Arts Commission and was honored with the Lorin Hollander Award for outstanding music leadership. She also received an award from the University of Cordoba in Argentina.

She had a passion for adventure and traveled the world enthusiastically and extensively.

As a professional cellist, Martha played under Leonard Bernstein, Stokowski, Serge Koussevitzky and Sir Thomas Beecham. In Tennessee, she played with numerous regional chamber groups and orchestras, including the Nashville, Chattanooga, Cookeville and Knoxville symphonies. Martha spent many years working in Nashville, Tenn., country music recording studios, alongside such notables as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Minnie Pearl, Chet Atkins, Bob Dylan, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jim Nabors and others.

Martha passed away in 2019, but her dedication to young musicians and summer music programs continues after her death. In 1997, she founded the Martha McCrory Foundation to encourage the study of music among young students. She often stated and firmly believed, "Living, working and making music with others who share similar interests while under the tutelage of superior artists is a life-changing experience." Her bequests to the Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association support the annual Martha McCrory Young Artists Competition, and provide an annual matching grant to Encore’s Music Camp Scholarship funds.