Competitions and Scholarships

Sinfonia Concerto Competition

Linc Smelser directs the CSA Sinfonia youth orchestra, a full orchestra that has performed varied and exciting repertoire in NIU’s Boutell Memorial Concert Hall every year since 1999 and the Sinfonia Concerto Competition began in 2001.

  • This competition is open to students who are 18 years of age or younger and live within 75 miles of DeKalb.
  • Competitors don't need to be members of the Sinfonia ensemble.
  • You will be expected to perform one memorized movement of a standard concerto or work with orchestral accompaniment.
  • Auditions are limited to eight minutes and you are expected to bring your own accompanist. 

The winner receives a prize of $200 and performs the concerto with the orchestra at the May concert. Winners may not compete again on the same instrument.

Concerto Competition Application and Rules

Application Deadline: Oct. 21, 2019
Competition Date: Nov. 11, 2019 (audition slots begin at 6 p.m.)
Location: NIU Music Building, Recital Hall.

The winner receives a prize of $200 and performs the concerto with the orchestra at the May concert. Winners may not compete again on the same instrument.

Previous Winners

The 2018 winner was Manou Magdalena Chakravorty, who performed the Concerto in E Minor for Cello and Orchestra by Edward Elgar. Of Indian and Austrian heritage, Manou studies with Richard Hirschl, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Head of Strings at Roosevelt University, and Oleksa Mycyk of Northwestern University. She began her cello studies at the age of four with Karen Schulz-Harmon. At the age of eleven, she performed in her first master class, for the celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma at Chicago’s Symphony Center. She has also received instruction from eminent cellists including Amir Eldan, Hans Jorgen Jensen, Catherine Jones and many others.

  • 2017: Margaret O’Malley
  • 2016: Thompson Wang
  • 2015: Steven Song
  • 2014: Katherine Gallagher
  • 2013: Karisa Chiu
  • 2012: Serena Harnack
  • 2011: Genevieve Smelser
  • 2010: Rachel Stenzel
  • 2009: Hannah Bingham
  • 2008: Katie Schulz
  • 2007: David Petersons
  • 2006: Autumn Chodorowski
  • 2005: Katelyn Kozinski
  • 2004: Jaime Sachay
  • 2003: Hellen Weberpal
  • 2002: Jonathan Richards
  • 2001: Shawn Moore
  • 2000: Andrew Parsons


We have raised over $85,000 since our scholarship program began in 1993, helping more than 650 area children study the arts. Our scholarship program is funded through benefit recitals and other fundraising activities, as well as by private donors.

Need Scholarships

Need scholarships provide financial assistance to students 18 years of age and younger who are unable to pay the full fee for private lessons, classes or ensembles. These scholarships are awarded in the fall and spring. Partial scholarships are allocated by the scholarship advisory board on the basis of need, demonstrated interest and available funds.

If you want to be considered, fill out a need scholarship application form at the beginning of the fall or spring semester. Your application must include:

  • Financial information
  • A recommendation from a teacher (a music teacher, if possible)
  • A program registration form and $15 registration fee (final billing arrangements will be made at a later date)

Need Scholarship Application

Incomplete applications will not be considered. Need Scholarship deadline is Aug. 23 for the fall and Jan. 10 for the spring.

Talent Scholarships

Each year, we award six $250 scholarships to talented musicians who demonstrate a high level of skill and musicianship. The scholarships are awarded to two students in each of the following categories:

  • Elementary (grades three-five)
  • Junior (grades six-eight)
  • Senior (grades nine-12)

All instruments are welcome. Applicants must be enrolled in private lessons or an ensemble at the Community School of the Arts. Applicants who take lessons on two instruments may audition on both. They must submit two application forms and pay the application fee twice.

If you want to be considered, fill out a talent scholarship application form. You will be required to attend an audition.

Talent Scholarship Application

Talent Scholarship application deadline is Dec. 9 and the auditions are on Jan. 11 at 1:30 p.m.

If you receive a talent scholarship, you will perform in our annual Honors Recital. Check our calendar for recital dates. You may not compete for another talent scholarship for two years (two full cycles) after receiving the award.


We partner with local and national organizations, whose assistance allows us to enrich our programs and expand their reach.

Farny R. Wurlitzer Grant

In 2017, we were again awarded a $5,000 grant from the DeKalb County Community Foundation's Farny R. Wurlitzer Fund. This grant helps provide need-based scholarships to students enrolling in our lessons, classes and ensembles.

We are grateful for this partnership. It is through this type of collaboration that we are able to make a difference in our community.

National Endowment for the Arts Grants

We received grants in 2011, 2012 and 2013 from the National Endowment for the Arts, through the Arts Education in American Communities program. This is an invitational grant for $10,000 with a $10,000 matching grant from NIU. This grant program supports our work by helping us bring talented artists and teachers to DeKalb to enhance the community.