Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition

Merz Trio and Trio St. Bernard Tie Win the Gold at 2018 Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition

For the first time in the 17-year history of the biennial Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition, two of the five finalists split both the Lerman Gold Prize of $10,000 and the Silver Prize of $5,000 at the Avalon Theatre in Easton, MD. The Merz Trio of New York, NY, and Trio St. Bernard of Taos, NM, tied as this year’s winners. The Merz Trio also received the Competition’s Audience Choice Award. The other finalists were District5 of Washington, DC; Sapphirus Quartet of Ann Arbor, MI; and Ajax Quartet of Boulder, CO.

A preliminary judges’ panel of eight notable musicians headed by J. Lawrie Bloom, artistic director of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival and the Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition, pared the field of applicants to five finalists in a blind review of applicant electronic submissions. The five finalists were judged by Marcy Rosen, founding member of the world-renowned Mendelssohn String Quartet and artistic director of Chesapeake Chamber Music; Tara Helen O’Connor, founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning New Millennium Ensemble and head of the wind department at Purchase College Conservatory of Music; and Thomas Sauer, pianist and founder and director of the Mannes Beethoven Institute at Mannes College and a faculty member of both Vassar College and Mannes College. Rosen, speaking to the finalists before the winners were announced, commented, “It’s not winning that’s important, but making music for the rest of your life.”

The prestigious Lerman Gold Prize Award was named for Arnold and Zena Lerman. Arnie Lerman, along with Anna Larkin and Don Buxton, Executive Director of Chesapeake Music, founded the Competition in 2001. The Lerman family provided financial support to fund the Gold Prize for the foreseeable future. Arnie, who was in attendance at this year’s Competition, stated, “What really mattered to us was to see the Competition succeed and be a part of Chesapeake Music. The Competition unites this wonderful music with these talented young musicians.”

This year’s five finalists included trios, quartets and quintets and represented a wide range of instrumental combinations: winds, strings, brass, and mixed instruments, as well as some of the finest young professional chamber music performers in the world. The musicians were housed in homes throughout Talbot County by families connected to Chesapeake Music. Anne Moran, Assistant Chairman of this year’s Competition, stated, “It’s the enthusiasm and kindness of the community that makes this Competition possible every other year.”

Brigid Coleridge, violinist with the Merz Trio, spoke about her experience staying with her host family, David and Chloe Pitard, “Winning aside, this has been a great experience – everyone has been so warm and welcoming. I feel like we came into a community interested in what we are doing and in our journey as musicians.”

Julia Yang, cellist for the Merz Trio, added, “We looked for a competition that offered recital opportunities. The concerts in the community after the competition offered this. We really felt the good vibes from the audience when we were playing.”

The judges met with the finalists following the Competition to share feedback on their performances. The pianist of the Merz Trio, Lee Dionne, added, “The judges listened so well with refined sensibilities. Their feedback was welcome as we are working on refining our work.”

Pianist Sam Hong of Trio St. Bernard reflected on his ensemble’s performance in the Competition, “We can feel when the audience is in contact with us. Last night was profound during the slow movement of Beethoven when there was complete silence in the Avalon. The Avalon’s venue is small enough for us to reach the audience like that.”

Bob Burger, PhD, Competition Chair and Chesapeake Music Board Treasurer, concluded, “It can be said with great sincerity that each of the ensembles brought distinction to itself by qualifying to be a Finalist in this Competition. We were honored to have each of them participate in the Competition. In our eyes, each of them was a winner.”

For further information, visit <> or call the Chesapeake Music office at 410-819-0380. The Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition is underwritten by the Talbot County Arts Council, the Maryland State Arts Council, and private benefactors.