2017 finalists (l-r): Julian Rhee, violin; Naomi Sutherland, harp; Michael Wu, piano; Yaoyao Chen, violin.

The Final Forte was on Wed., Mar. 29, 2017, at 6:45 p.m.
in Overture Hall, Overture Center for the Arts

2017 Results

First Place: Julian Rhee, violin
Second Place: Michael Wu, piano
Honorable Mention: Yaoyao Chen, violin
Honorable Mention: Naomi Sutherland, harp

2017 Rebroadcasts:

The Wisconsin Channel (WPT-2): Saturday, April 1, at 3:30 p.m.
Wisconsin Public Radio: Sunday, April 2, at 12:00 p.m.
Milwaukee Public Television (Channel 36.1): Sunday, April 2, at 1:00 p.m.
Wisconsin Public Television (WPT-1): Sunday, April 2, at 2:00 p.m.

2017 Finalists

Julian Rhee, violin | Brookfield
Age: 16
School: Brookfield East High School (Grade 11)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, Mvt. I (Tchaikovsky)
Watch a video about Julian.
At 16, Julian Rhee is already making his mark on the music world. His first prize accomplishments include the 2017 La Crosse Symphony Orchestra Competition, 2016 Music Teachers National Association Senior Strings Competition, 2015 Milwaukee Symphony Young Artist Competition, 2015 Madison Symphony “Final Forte,” 2015 Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Concerto Competition, 2015 Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra Senior Symphony Competition, and the 2015 Concord Chamber Orchestra Competition. Julian was the youngest semifinalist in the 2016 William C. Byrd International Competition, two-time semifinalist in the 2016 and 2013 Stradivarius International Violin Competition, and a semifinalist in the 2015 Johansen International and Cooper International competitions. Julian has been a featured soloist with the Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Madison Symphony Orchestras, among many others. Julian shares his passion for music by serving in the local community as an assisting artist and mentor for the Wisconsin Intergenerational Orchestra, providing leadership in this newly formed organization. Julian is a junior at Brookfield East High School and is also the class president. He studies the violin with Almita Vamos and Hye-Sun Lee at the Music Institute of Chicago.
Michael Wu, piano | Sun Prairie
Age: 14
School: Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School (Grade 9)
Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 22, Mvt. I (Saint-Saëns)
Watch a video about Michael.
First-prize recipient of the 2015 Wisconsin Youth Piano Competition hosted by PianoArts, 14-year-old Michael Wu began his piano studies at age three and formal lessons with Lana Robotewskyj at age five. Since then, he has been tutored by award-winning pianists such as William Grant Naboré, Peter Takács, Alvin Chow, Ethan (Yi) Dong, and Robert Shannon. He currently studies with Bill Lutes, emeritus professor and artist-inresidence at the UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. At age 13, Michael appeared on six of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Youth Concerts, performing the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 under the baton of Maestro Yaniv Dinur. Other notable achievements include winning his age group in the 2015 Wisconsin Music Teachers Association Badger State Competition, the 2016 Music Teachers National Association Wisconsin State Junior Piano Competition, advancing to the final round of the Overture Center’s “Rising Stars” talent search, and winning first prize in the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 2014 Fall Youth Concerto Competition. In addition to the piano, Michael plays clarinet and has several years of youth orchestral and chamber ensemble experience. His other hobbies include writing, reading, cooking, discovering new technologies, and traveling.
Yaoyao Chen, violin | Menasha
Age: 18
School: Xavier High School (Grade 12)
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47, Mvt. I (Sibelius)
Watch a video about Yaoyao.
Yaoyao Chen, 18, is a senior at Xavier High School in Appleton, WI. Born in Zhanjiang, China, she began studying violin at age six. At age 11, she was accepted to the Central Conservatory of Music Middle School in Beijing. She was also a member of the China Youth Chamber Orchestra and performed at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (Beijing). In 2011, she was the third place winner of the “Golden Beijing” National Junior Violin Competition. In 2013, Yaoyao came to America to study violin with Dr. Wen-Lei Gu, professor at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music. She was the advanced strings winner of the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association Badger Competition in 2014 and she has performed solo with the Civic Symphony of Green Bay and the Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra, as the winner of both orchestra’s concerto competitions. She also placed second with her quartet in the 2015 Fox Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra Ensemble Competition. Currently, she is concertmaster of the Fox Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra. Aside from music, Yaoyao is an honor roll student and a member of the Honor Society at school. In her free time, she enjoys singing, swimming, and traveling.
Naomi Sutherland, harp | Viroqua
Age: 17
School: Interlochen Arts Academy (Grade 12)
Danse sacrée et profane (Debussy)
Watch a video about Naomi.
Harpist Naomi Sutherland is 17 years old and a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy where she studies with Joan Holland. Her other teachers include Elizabeth Borsodi of Madison and Liz Cifani, harp professor at Northwestern University. In 2015, Naomi was a finalist in the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra’s (LSO) Rising Stars Concerto Competition and was invited by LSO Maestro Alexander Platt to perform Handel’s complete Harp Concerto on their 2015 Chamber Concert. Naomi was also awarded an honorable mention in the 2015 Bolz Young Artist Competition, and “highly commended” in the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Young Artist Competition. In 2014, Naomi performed with the Wisconsin State Honors Orchestra in a concert at the Overture Center in Madison. Naomi has attended the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, the Young Artist’s Harp Seminar in Georgia, and the Connecticut Valley Summer Harp Intensive. Naomi lives in the rural town of Viroqua, WI, in a solar renewable energy house that she and her three siblings helped build. In addition to music, Naomi loves cooking and experimenting with food, arts and crafts, and outdoor activities.
The Final Forte finalists are selected from a group of young Wisconsin artists who competed in the Bolz Young Artist Competition’s two preliminary rounds. The event gives these four artists the chance to perform a movement from a concerto with the MSO.

The Final Forte is a free concert broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) and Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR). This competition has captured an enormous following and numerous honors, including an Emmy nomination, First Place in the “Special Interest” category from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association in 2007, and fifth most-watched program in the February 2007 Nielsen ratings. The 2008 WPT and WPR broadcasts reached more than 60,000 viewers and listeners in the Madison market alone and the 2009 broadcasts reached an estimated 200,000 statewide.
“…though I have competed nationally and internationally, nothing has surpassed the excitement and experience with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. I was called “an inspiration” and “a hero” by some of the kids I met from the audience, which were words that have inspired me to work even harder to continue to inspire and motivate other kids my age to strive for their goals as well.” – Julian Rhee, 2015 First Place Winner
“It is an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to feel the commitment and energy of these young performers and to reflect on the central role the arts play in our lives. I look forward to these events with great joy.” – John DeMain, MSO Music Director
2016 Finalists:
First Place: Robert Rockman, marimba
Second Place: Tabby Rhee, violin
Honorable Mention: Liam Mayo, piano
Honorable Mention: Audrianna Wu, piano
2015 Finalists
First Place: Julian Rhee, violin
Second Place: Vivian Wilhelms, piano
Honorable Mention: Maya Pierick, harp
Honorable Mention: Isabella Wu, piano
Please contact Director of Development Casey Oelkers at (608) 257-3734 or
The Bolz Young Artist
Competition is made possible
by a generous endowment from

The Eugenie Mayer
Bolz Family Foundation

Wisconsin Young Artists Compete:
The Final Forte concert and
broadcasts are the result of a
historic partnership among
Major funding
provided by

Diane Ballweg

Julie and
Larry Midtbo

Fred and
Mary Mohs

Stephen Morton

Joe and
Mary Ellyn Sensenbrenner

Additional funding
provided by

A. Paul Jones
Charitable Trust

James Dahlberg
and Elsebet Lund

W. Jerome Frautschi

Ann and Roger

Elaine and
Nicholas Mischler

Kato Perlman

Sentry Insurance Company

The Estate of
Norene A. Smith

Paul Guthrie, in memory of
Ella Guthrie

Judith and Nick Topitzes

Friends of Wisconsin Public Television

Special thanks to Farley's House of Pianos for
providing the pianos for our
Young Artist Competition auditions