The Heartland Symphony Orchestra has a long history of providing invaluable music education programs to students in the central Minnesota area. HSO serves the community through youth education and outreach initiatives including the Youth Concerto Competition, Composition Competition, and Artists in the Schools. HSO is dedicated to enriching the lives of young people by providing exposure to orchestral music while reinforcing core curriculum standards.

Youth Concerto Competition

Every other year, the Heartland Symphony Orchestra auditions talented young artists from our central Minnesota service area. Up to two students are selected to perform with the orchestra in concert in both Brainerd and Little Falls, as a way to nurture their musical growth and performance skills. The selected winners also receive a recording of their performance, and they are awarded a scholarship to further their music education.

2023 Youth Concerto Competition Winners

2019 Youth Concerto Competition Winners

2017 Youth Concerto Competition Winners

2015 Youth Concerto Competition Winners

Composition Competition

Every other year, the Heartland Symphony hosts a competition for composers. The winner receives a performance DVD and a CD, a monetary prize, and works closely with the conductor in realizing their work. The composer must agree to all rules and regulations as well as meet all score requirements set by the competition’s committee.

2023-2024 Composition Competition Winner

2019-2020 Composers’ Competition Winner

2018 Composers’ Competition Winner

2016 Composers’ Competition Winner

2014 Composers’ Competition Winner

Collaboration with St. Francis Music Center

HSO is pleased to announce a new collaboration with the St. Francis Music Center, a Sally Ordway Irvine Award winning community music school for the performing arts located in Little Falls. The music center offers private lessons, classes, and camps in instrumental and vocal music, dance and gymnastics, inspiring more than 500 students every year. It also sponsors two string orchestras at the preparatory and concert levels. As part of its commitment to community service and music education, HSO is partnering with St. Francis to mutually develop our shared audience and enrich the lives of our players by bringing young musicians together with experienced musicians in rehearsal and performance. We look forward to sharing the stage and presenting our listeners with an increasingly rich string sound. To learn more about the St. Francis Music Center and its string program, please visit their website at

Specific activities:

  • SF Concert Orchestra performs one strings-only piece alongside HSO string players on the LF fall concert.  HSO string section leaders and conductor attend one rehearsal prior to the performance.
  • HSO string section leaders perform alongside SF orchestra on their Christmas concert.  HSO players attend one sectional/rehearsal prior.
  • HSO string section leaders perform alongside SF orchestra on their Spring concert.  HSO players attend one sectional/rehearsal prior.
  • SF students of an advanced caliber will be invited to join the HSO (in addition to continued participation in the SF Concert Orchestra) where they will be further mentored in orchestral playing at the same time that their participation builds up the string ranks of the HSO.

Collaboration with the Brainerd High School Orchestra Program

brainerd high school orchestra

Each winter, the HSO and Brainerd High School Orchestra Program work together on a program for the Winter Concert.

The Brainerd High School Orchestra Program is made up of three string ensembles and involves more than 100 students. All students who wish to begin or continue their development on violin, viola, cello, and bass are encouraged to participate. The most advanced orchestra at BHS, the Chamber Orchestra, participates in a side-by-side concert with the HSO on its Winter Concert. The collaboration between the HSO and BHS Orchestra is mutually beneficial; student musicians are exposed to new music from the standard repertoire, experience playing with a full orchestra, and the HSO string section is strengthened by an additional 20-30 string players.

As part of this collaboration:

  • BHS Chamber Orchestra members rehearse a piece for full orchestra in the weeks leading up to the performance.
  • Student musicians attend a side-by-side rehearsal to meet their new HSO stand partners and experience playing in a full orchestra (with winds, brass, and percussion).
  • BHS Chamber Orchestra performs with the HSO on its Winter Concert.

Artists in the Schools

Artists in the School: HSO’s Music Director/Conductor and often times our special guest artist are made available for presentation of hands-on music education workshops in local schools while they are visiting the area. These music clinics are presented free to the schools and the students who attend them, but the artist’s time and travel expenses are paid by the HSO through special grant funding.

Students who attend these clinics are encouraged to attend the upcoming concert performance of the artist with whom they spent time. All concerts are now free for all youth through high school age!

A visit to your school can be arranged by your administrator or music educator. Inquiries about your public or private school participating in this program should be directed to Heartland Symphony Orchestra at [email protected] or 1-800-826-1997.