By Kathy Collins

Each year, the Florida Orchestra Musicians Association holds the Justine LeBaron Young Artist Competition. This year, the competition was held in April at the Music Center on the Gibbs Campus of St. Petersburg College.

The competition is named in remembrance of the former principal French horn of the Florida Orchestra. This year’s competition involved 32 young classical music students from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. The students competed in the senior and junior divisions in piano and instrumental categories. The competition is open to students up to the age of 22. Winners received cash prizes totaling $5,200.

Locally, three students placed in their respective categories. Joshua Cessna, 22, is a student at the University of Tampa and a resident of Valrico. Cessna placed third in the Senior Division of piano. Cessna studies with Grigorios Zamparas at the University of Tampa.

Karishma Chapalamadugu, 13, is a student at Williams Middle School and a resident of Valrico. Chapalamadugu, who plays the violin, placed second in the Junior Instrumental Division. Chapalamadugu studies with Yan Jiang Lu, violinist with the Florida Orchestra.

Myra Sexton, 11, is a student at Stowers Elementary. She is a resident of Lithia. Sexton also plays the violin. She placed honorable mention in the Junior Instrumental Division. Sexton studies with Lauren Murphy, formerly with the Florida Orchestra.

Sexton said, “I am so grateful to the Florida Orchestra for providing young musicians like myself the opportunity to build our confidence and develop our skills through the feedback of the judges. I am already looking forward to next year’s competition.”

William Mickelsen, principal tuba for the Florida Orchestra, is also the competition organizer. Mickelsen said, “I have been so impressed by the high level of talent, even the very young ones. For many students, their goal is to be just like us in the orchestra, and this competition gives us a chance to nurture and encourage that talent. But these students also recognize that studying classical music will help them no matter what they do, in concentration, focus, dedication and motivation.”

For more information on the group, visit

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