I’ve long wondered why Eugene’s professional music groups don’t do more to feature the work of student musicians. The UO’s School of Music and Dance certainly teaches composition, doesn’t it? Yet we never hear any of those student compositions performed on stage at the Hult Center or at other concert venues. (Are you listening, Eugene Symphony? Chamber Music Amici? Oregon Bach Festival?)

Now the Oregon Mozart Players are stepping up to shine a spotlight on performances by young musicians from around the state with their inaugural Young Soloists Competition, whose finals will be held Sunday afternoon at Room 190 of the School of Music and Dance. Admission is free.

OMP Artistic Director Kelly Kuo, who grew up in the eastern Oregon town of Hermiston, said he’s long wanted to hold such an event for young musicians around the state – especially kids from small towns who might not have many opportunities to perform. “This has been on my to-do list since I got hired,” said Kuo, who was named to his post in 2012. “Had it not been for similar competitions, I would never have had much opportunity to explore music.”

In addition, he said, holding the Young Soloists Competition is a way of making up for the fact that music instruction in schools has been cut to a bare minimum in most of Oregon. “And opportunities are least available for (musicians) 13 and under,” he said.

So Kuo set up the first OMP competition with two age brackets – ages 14 to 18 and 13 and under. First round of the competition required the young musicians to create and submit performance videos of themselves playing a movement from a chamber orchestra concerto.

Twenty-eight students from around the state entered; a panel of three judges, including Kuo, selected 12 finalists – six from each age division – who will perform in the final live competition (with piano accompaniment) on Sunday.

Up to three winners – one from the 13 and unders, two from the older musicians – will be chosen to perform their works during the Mozart Players’ regular subscription concert in Beall Concert Hall on Jan. 31.

You can see the list of finalists here; click on their names to read more about them.

And the program for Sunday’s competition is here. The performances will be held in two sessions, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Now, if we can just hear some student compositions….