The 2024 Competition will be held during the 2024 season of An Appalachian Summer Festival on JULY 6 in Rosen Concert Hall at the Broyhill Music Center (813 Rivers Street, Boone, NC), on the campus of Appalachian State University.

Finalists will be selected by a panel of jurors during the preliminary round in the spring of 2024.

Competition Prizes

FIRST PLACE WINNER will receive a cash prize of $2,500, as well as an invitation to perform during the Festival season following the competition. A First Place Winner is not eligible to return for future competitions.

SECOND PLACE WINNER will receive a cash prize of $2,000. Should the First Place Winner be unable to perform during the following Festival season, the Second Place Winner will be invited to fulfill this engagement.

THIRD PLACE WINNER will receive a cash prize of $1,500.

AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD WINNER will receive a cash prize of $1,000.


ALL OTHER FINALISTS will receive a cash prize of $500.

Please note: All prizewinners must complete appropriate IRS (Internal Revenue Service) forms to receive disbursement of prize monies. Payments of $1,500 or more may be subject to North Carolina or Federal withholding.

Prize Award eligibility is conditional upon authorization for employment in the United States, or otherwise eligible to receive payment under state and federal laws.

Jury Process


A panel of distinguished musicians, conductors, and collegiate educators serve as jurors for the preliminary round. Based on recordings submitted, jurors select the overall top six (6) applicants via a blind adjudication process to compete at a public event held as part of An Appalachian Summer Festival’s 2024 season. In the event that one of the finalists selected cannot compete in the final round, two (2) alternates are named.

In the final live round of the competition, a panel of prominent symphony conductors will select a First Place, Second Place and Third Place Winner. The decision of the judges is final. In addition, the competition audience will select an “Audience Choice Award Winner.”

Past live competition judges have included such acclaimed conductors as Gerard Schwarz with the Eastern Festival Orchestra, Palm Beach Symphony, and All-Star Orchestra; José-Louis Novo with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra; Roger Kalia with Symphony New Hampshire and Orchestra Santa Monica; Robert Moody with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and Jacomo Bairos with the Nu Deco Ensemble.


2024 Competition Judges


Cornelia Laemmli Orth (Music Director/Conductor) is in her 17th season as Music Director of Symphony of the Mountains. In addition to Masterworks Series, she has developed new series of summer outdoor, family, young people, pops, patriotic and crossover concerts, which led to Symphony of the Mountains being the first Tennessee orchestra to travel abroad for a European tour with the Kruger Brothers. World-renowned soloists are regular guests with both orchestras. As an advocate for contemporary music, Cornelia brings a variety of new music to the concert hall. In 2022, Cornelia launched a new outreach program called “Paths to Dignity,” bringing live music to people who are unsheltered and raising awareness to the problems of individuals and families who are unhoused. Her concert lectures, involvement with area schools, colleges and universities, speeches for civic organizations, regular TV and radio appearances and collaborations with regional art organizations have made her a vital part of the communities.

From 2016-2022, Cornelia served as Music Director of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra in Ithaca, NY. In September 2019, she had her debut with Opera Ithaca in Ithaca, NY, in several performances of La Bohème, and in February 2020, she appeared as guest conductor of the Kansas Intercollegiate Orchestra at the Wesleyan University in Salina, KS.In October 2017, she appeared as guest conductor with the Brevard Philharmonic in Brevard, NC. From 2010-2012, she held the position of interim music director for the Appalachian Philharmonic and the Appalachian State University Opera Program in Boone, NC. She resumed these responsibilities for the 2015-2016 season and serves now on the advisory board for the Hayes School of Music. During the 2014-2015 Season, Cornelia had her debut as guest conductor with the Asheville Lyric Opera in Asheville, NC.

Prior to her engagement with Symphony of the Mountains, Cornelia held the position of music director and conductor of the Oak Ridge Symphony and Choir. She served as Associate Conductor and later Principal Guest Conductor of the Knoxville Symphony from 2002-2008, and since then has had several appearances with this orchestra. In Europe, she was music director of the Operetta Theatre in Möriken, Switzerland, guest assistant conductor under Philippe Jordan at La Scala in Milano, Italy, worked with the Bohuslav Orchestra in the Czech Republic, and conducted many concerts with choirs and ad hoc orchestras with musicians from the Zurich Opera House and the Tonhalle Orchestra.

Cornelia received her Lehrdiplom in piano from the Conservatory at Winterhur and graduated from the Conservatory and University in Zurich with her master’s in music education. She obtained her Masters in Orchestra Conducting from Northwestern University, where she studied under Victor Yampolsky. In a variety of workshops, she studied under Larry Rachleff, Marin Alsop, Joann Falletta, Robert Spano, Kirk Trevor, Tsung Yeh, Milen Nachev and Johannes Schlaefli.

Cornelia convincingly combines the classical-romantic tradition of her old-world origins with the unique American flavor that her international background and extensive working experience in her adopted country has provided. She is a sought-after guest conductor in the USA and in Europe.

Emerging American conductor CHRISTOPHER JAMES LEES brings passionate and nuanced orchestral performances to the stage, a fierce commitment to contemporary music, and a natural charisma to audiences all around the world.

In 2018, Mr. Lees began an appointment as Resident Conductor of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra. In addition to the more than 50 annual concert appearances with the CSO, he has annually stepped in to conduct Subscription Classical performances on five occasions, including two gala concerts with legendary artists and Grammy Award winners Branford Marsalis and Rhiannon Giddens, respectively.

An active guest conductor, Mr. Lees has returned for performances with the Los Angeles and Rochester philharmonics, the Houston, Detroit, Milwaukee, North Carolina, Portland, and Flint symphonies, and conducted debuts with the New York Philharmonic, and New World, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Toledo, and Vermont symphonies. Additional engagements have taken him to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orchestra de Chambre de Paris, Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, and at the Music in the Mountains Festival & Festival Internacional de Inverno de Campos do Jordão in Brazil.

Only the second American Gustavo Dudamel Conducting Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mr. Lees made his debut with the orchestra in April 2013 and returned for concerts in February 2015. With the New York Philharmonic, St. Louis & Atlanta symphonies, among others, Mr. Lees has served as an assistant conductor for the world’s leading conductors, including Gustavo Dudamel, Paavo Järvi, Herbert Blomstedt, Leonard Slatkin, David Robertson, Robert Spano, Marin Alsop, Pablo Heras-Casado, Stéphane Denève, Susanna Mälkki, and Nicholas McGegan. After two summers of study with Robert Spano at the Aspen Music Festival, Mr. Lees was named winner of both the 2011 James Conlon Conducting Prize and the 2012 Aspen Conducting Prizes, respectively. In 2013, Mr. Lees returned for a third summer as assistant conductor for the Aspen Music Festival and School.

An active pianist, and equally comfortable in the opera pit, Mr. Lees has served as Music Director or Assistant Conductor for a wide array of operas: Aida (Atlanta Symphony), Peter Grimes & John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby (Aspen Opera Theatre Center), Louis Andriessen’s De Materie, and Philip Glass’ The CIVIL warS (Los Angeles Philharmonic), Don Giovanni & Mark Adamo’s Little Women, (University of Michigan Opera Theatre), and Nino Rota’s Il Capello di paglia di Firenze (AJ Fletcher Opera Institute). A recipient of a Career Assistance Grant from the Solti Foundation US, Mr. Lees was also chosen for showcase on the Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation National Conductor Preview, hosted by the League of American Orchestras and Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. A dedicated advocate for music of our time, Mr. Lees has premiered more than 150 new works by a diverse range of composers, and collaborated closely with Pulitzer Prize winners John Adams, William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Jennifer Higdon, Joseph Schwantner, Steven Stucky, Caroline Shaw, Roger Reynolds, and Julia Wolfe.

An equally passionate advocate for music education, Mr. Lees has brought inspirational energy to student orchestras across the country, from the Colburn School to the Shepherd School at Rice University and the New England Conservatory. A native of Washington, D.C., Mr. Lees holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan, and has studied conducting with Larry Rachleff and Robert Spano, as well as having participated in masterclasses with Lorin Maazel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Gustav Meier, and Jorma Panula. When not performing, Mr. Lees can be found riding roller coasters with his eight-year-old son, reading the stack of books on his nightstand, or recovering from the Boston Marathon, which he ran this past April.

Spanish native JOSÉ-LUIS NOVO is currently artistic director and conductor of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra (ASO) in Maryland and, from 2003-2016 held an impressive 13-year tenure as Music Director and Conductor of the Binghamton Philharmonic in New York state. Prior to these appointments, he served as Assistant Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under both former Music Director Paavo Järvi and the late Music Director Emeritus Jesús López-Cobos, and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra under the late Erich Kunzel. He has been on the conducting faculty at the Eastern Music Festival since 1999.

Highlights of Novo’s tenure with the ASO include numerous appearances at the Music Center at Strathmore with violinists James Ehnes, Anne Akiko Meyers, Leticia Moreno, Chee-Yun and Esther Yoo; pianists Awadagin Pratt, Olga Kern and Jon Nakamatsu; cellists Steven Isserlis and the late Lynn Harrell; guitarist Manuel Barrueco; pipa virtuoso Wu Man and the Naval Academy Glee Club. Also remarkable are a 2012 return appearance at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center with mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, national broadcasts on NPR’s Performance Today, debut TV broadcasts on Washington’s WETA Metro PBS, the launching of the ASO’s award-winning streaming platform Symphony+, the creation of the Annapolis Symphony Academy and the ASO’s first commercial CD commemorating the 300th anniversary of the signing of the City of Annapolis’ Royal Charter. In July of 2022, Maestro Novo and the ASO stunned audiences on both sides of the Atlantic in a debut international tour to Spain with guitar virtuoso Pepe Romero as guest soloist.

Recent and upcoming guest conducting engagements include debut appearances with the Rochester Philharmonic, the Austin, Grand Rapids, Hilton Head, Palm Beach, Alexandria and South Bend Symphony Orchestras, and return appearances with the Baltimore Symphony, the Fresno Philharmonic, Symphoria, and a Kimmel Center debut in Philadelphia conducting the Curtis Institute Orchestra. After a successful debut with the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra (TPO) for the Thailand International Composition Festival in 2015, Maestro Novo has been invited back regularly to guest conduct the TPO on several occasions. Other guest conducting engagements have included appearances with the Symphony San José; the Minnesota Orchestra; the Syracuse, Modesto, Windsor, Stamford, Tulsa, and Tallahassee Symphonies; the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra; the Cleveland and Abilene Philharmonics, and most of the major Spanish orchestras.

Novo has also fostered a reputation as a keen educator of young musicians. He has held conducting positions with the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra, Miami University Symphony Orchestra, National Repertory Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra of Spain and the Yale Symphony Orchestra, and from 2017 to 2019 was Interim Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Maryland School of Music, College Park. In addition, he has conducted many noteworthy college and youth orchestras such as the Curtis Institute Orchestra, the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, the Bard Conservatory Orchestra, the Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra, and the Portuguesa State Youth Orchestra of the Venezuelan El Sistema. More recently and under the auspices of the Annapolis Symphony Academy, he presided over the debut of its Orion Youth Orchestra, conducting the inaugural concert in June 2022.

Novo was featured in the League of American Orchestra’s Symphony magazine in “Podium Powers,” an article about emerging Hispanic conductors in the United States. He holds music degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Yale University and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, and is the recipient of a 2010 Annie Award in Performing Arts from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, a 2008 American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Adventurous Programming Award, and a 2005 Broome County Arts Council Heart of the Arts Award.