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WSO Announces Young Artist Competition Winner To Perform Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in its Season Finale MasterWorks Concert, Sunday May 19th 

Described as a 'Clarinet Prodigy', Chris Dechant, 19 year old clarinetist, studying at Juilliard, wins coveted prize.

The WSO is thrilled to announce this year’s Thomas C. Clark Young Artist Competition Winner - Chris Dechant, a 19-year-old heralding from Texas pursuing his undergraduate degree at Juilliard. As the selected winner, Chris will receive a $2000 cash prize and will perform with the entire Waterbury Symphony Orchestra in its Season Finale MasterWorks Concert, entitled 'Heavenly Journey, Mozart & Mahler’ on Sunday May 19th.  

Initiated in 2019, the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition was launched as a unique opportunity for serious young instrumentalists aged 18 to 26 years, from continental United States, to compete for a cash award and a coveted solo performance with the full Waterbury Symphony Orchestra.  The cash award has been endowed by WSO’s esteemed Vice Chair, Mr. Thomas C. Clark.  Each year WSO’s Music Director, Maestro Leif Bjaland and Mr. Clark select one instrument for the focus of the competition.  In 2024, the competition was centered on the clarinet, and the applicants were asked to arrive ready to perform excerpts from the Mozart Clarinet Concerto on the A clarinet.  

The competition attracts more applicants each year and this year eight students were selected to compete, heralding from prestigious music universities including Juilliard, Yale, Boston University School of Music, and others. The judging panel included WSO Music Conductor Leif Bjaland, WSO’s Cultural Ambassador Dr. Vincent deLuise, and WSO’s Principal clarinetist Jim Forgey, along with Assistant Principal Mary Jane Rodgers.


Though the quality of the contestants performing was extremely high, the judging panel were unanimous in their selection of this year’s winner. Dr. deLuise, himself an avid clarinetist, summed up the excitement, over the incredible talent. “The wonderful and transformative initiative of WSO’s  Annual Young Artist Competition (YAC) has provided WSO patrons with fantastic concerts over the years, featuring several of the next generation’s amazing and talented musicians. This year is no exception! This spring’s YAC competition winner, 19 year-old Christopher Dechant, is a clarinet prodigy and superstar clarinetist who will perform Mozart’s beloved clarinet concerto with the WSO on Sunday, May 19th. Don’t miss this extraordinary young musician and our fabulous WSO!”

Chris will perform with the full Waterbury Symphony on stage on Sunday May 19th at 3pm at the Fine Arts Center of CT State Community College, Naugatuck Valley.  

WSO’s wishes acknowledge the generosity of Keith and Jane Mahler who are the Concert Sponsors for ‘Heavenly Journey’  

Tickets start at $25, available online via the WSO website at (, or by phone, by calling WSO’s box office partner, The Palace Theater Box Office at (203) 346-2000 Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 


Sunday, May 19th 3 pm 

WSO Thomas C. Clark Young Artist Competition Winner, 19 Year old Chris Dechant to perform Mozart Clarinet Concerto in WSO MasterWorks Concert: ‘Heavenly Journey’, Mozart & Mahler 


Location:  Fine Art Center, 

CT State Community College, Naugatuck Valley [Formerly NVCC] 

750 Chase Parkway, Waterbury


1:30 pm Doors Open 

2:00 pm Pre-Concert Talk By WSO Cultural Ambassador Dr Vincent deLuise

3:00 pm Concert 


Free accessible parking in covered garage


Tickets $25; $10 for students with ID - Call box office

For ticketing by phone: 203-346-2000*

*Via box office partner 

Waterbury Symphony Orchestra Telephone: 203-574-4283 


Leif Bjaland, Music Director 

Concert Sponsor: Keith and Jane Mahler 

About WSO's Thomas C. Clark Young Artist Initiative  

Launched in 2019,  WSO’s Thomas C. Clark Young Artist Initiative includes one annual Young Artist Chamber Series and an annual Young Artist Concerto Competition.  The Young Artist Chamber Series features chamber music performed by young musicians affiliated with the Yale School of Music. The performers are compensated though the generosity of an endowed fund established by Mr. Thomas C. Clark and further the WSO and Mr. Clark’s goal of highlighting and bolstering the careers of young musicians.

The Young Artist Concerto Competition is an annual competition launched to encourage the musical development of emerging artists. The competition prize is made possible through the generosity of the Thomas C. Clark Young Artist Prize Fund and is the only named, endowed competition prize in Connecticut.  Winners compete with contestants from throughout continental USA, initially winning a $1500 prize, and earn the opportunity to perform with the WSO, and an important credential for their resume.  In 2024, Dr Vincent deLuise bolstered the prize winnings another $500, resulting in a $2000 award for this year’s winner.  

Mr. Clark, with many years of experience serving on the boards of orchestras and performing arts organizations, knows well the significance of this type of opportunity for young musicians for its performance, monetary, and credential values.   “Having been involved for a long time with emerging musicians, I know how important it is for them to demonstrate their prowess in a performance with a symphony orchestra.   The prize fund is a named endowment and has real and enduring value both for the winners and the Symphony. I’m happy that the Prize will advance these young artists throughout their musical careers,” Mr. Clark explains. 

About Chris Dechant 

The celebrated winner of WSO’s $2000 Thomas C Clark Young Artist Competition

Chris Dechant has been described as “a clarinet prodigy and superstar clarinetist” beating out 7 exceedingly talented contestants from prestigious music from Continental United States.  A remarkably talented 19 year old clarinetist from Dallas, Texas, currently studying with the internationally acclaimed Jon Manasse at The Juilliard School, he has placed in many revered competitions, including first place in the International Clarinet Association's High School Solo Competition, grand prize in the Junior Division of the Silverstein Clarinet Competition, grand prize in Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra's Philharmonic Concerto Competition, finalist for the Marine Band Concerto Competition, and silver medal in Abilene Philharmonic's Concerto Competition. In addition to competitions, Chris is an active orchestral musician, participating in the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra for three years. Most recently, Chris performed as principal clarinet with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America on their North American tour this summer. Chris is also a Young Arts winner and From the Top finalist.


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