Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

22nd annual Schadt String Competition sets finals, free and open to the public

Friday, February 28, 2020 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

Some of the best young cellists in the United States have traveled to the Lehigh Valley to compete for a prestigious national award given by Allentown Symphony Orchestra.

Nine cellists vie for the $12,000 grand prize and the opportunity to perform a solo concert with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra (ASO).

The finals of the 23rd Annual Schadt String Competition are at 2 p.m. March 1, Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown. The finals are free and open to the public.

Norma Nunez-Ruch, ASO education director, says 60 applications from across the country were narrowed down through blind auditions to nine semifinalists who are narrowed down to three finalists through another blind audition Feb. 29 for the March 1 finals.

Begun in 1997, the Schadt String Competition was created through a bequest to the Allentown Symphony Association from Edwin H. Schadt and Leigh W. Schadt.

The Schadt brothers lived in Allentown and became successful businessmen establishing Towne Auto Company along Linden Street.

Their father, Henry Schadt, was a self-taught violinist and wanted his sons to learn to play the instrument that he loved. The father commissioned a local craftsman and musician, John Johnson, to make a violin for each boy and give them violin lessons.

The custom-made violins still exist and are being used today by young violinists from the Lehigh Valley.

Although Leigh and Edwin Schadt did not become violinists, they advanced their father’s wishes by establishing a trust to provide financial aid to promising young violin students.

The trust provides scholarships to area string musicians, sends young musicians to music camps, and underwrites youth concerts. After the Schadts’ deaths, the trust provided funding for the Allentown Symphony Association to host the Schadt String Competition.

Originally, the competition alternated every three years between violin, cello and classical guitar. The rotation was changed this year to alternate biennially between violin and cello.

The top prize was increased from $8,000 to $12,000. The second place finalist wins $5,000 and the third place finalist wins $2,500.

Each finalist must perform a cello concerto. The most frequently performed by contestants include Robert Schumann’s “Cello Concerto in A minor,” Antonín Dvořák’s “Cello Concerto No. 2 in B minor” and Edward Elgar’s “Cello Concerto in E minor.”

Judges are Diane Wittry, Music Director and Conductor of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra; Richard Weiss, first assistant principal cellist of The Cleveland Orchestra, and Jesús Castro-Balbi, a cellist who has soloed with the Dallas and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestras, China Philharmonic, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra (Denmark), Leipzig MDR radio orchestra, Mexico City Philharmonic and National Symphony Orchestra (Peru).

The competition has developed an international reputation and attracts musicians from all over the world.

Previous winners include 24-year-old Timothy Chooi of Canada, for violin; 23-year-old Tengyue Zhang of China, a Juilliard School student, for classical guitar, and 22-year-old Alexander Hersh, a student at the New England Conservatory in Boston, for cello.

Information:; 610-432-6715