When Cooper High School junior Owen Bailey looked at the requirements for entry into the Nelda Hodges Young Artist competition, one line that struck him was the one that stated the competition was established to inspire and reward young people’s love for music.

“That really spoke to me,” said Bailey, who serves as the principal oboist for the Abilene Youth Orchestra and the Cooper band. “I get so much enjoyment out of music, and I want others to get as much enjoyment out of it as I do.”

Bailey and Cooper senior John David King each finished in the top five of the competition, which was won by amateur classical pianist Khang Ma from Lubbock. Ma won the $1,500 first place prize money.

The Abilene Philharmonic’s Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition was established in 2008 to help support outstanding young musicians in the Abilene area. The competition is open to woodwind, brass, percussion, string, and piano students between the ages of 12-18 that live in Texas School Regions 7, 9, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and have not yet graduated high school.

For King, a senior at Cooper who plays the tuba, the chance to perform in the final round of the competition was the culmination of a lot of hard work.

“This was just a great experience,” he said. “I really worked hard on the music and thought it sounded really good on the tuba.”

Bailey performed Eguene Bozza’s Conte Pastoral and the third movement of W.A. Mozart’s Concertino, Opus 101, while King performed Antonio Capuzzi’s Andante and Rondo and Don Haddad’s Suite for Tuba (movements I and II).

Nelda and Eddie Hodges were generous donors, active volunteers, and innovative leaders of the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra, Foundation, and Guild for almost 60 years. Eddie Hodges honored his wife with the establishment of the Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition Endowment to inspire and reward young people’s love for music.