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The Young Musicians Competition is an annual televised musical contest produced by Radio-Television Sainte Genevieve. Held every year since 1989, the competition is open to Sainte Genevieve musicians between ages 16 and 25, and seeks to promote the creation of original musical compositions by young Genevievans. Though its origins were simple and humble, it has become one of the most popular television programs in the country, and one of the largest and most elaborate RTSG productions.


In December 1986, then-RTSG President Stanley Dorn proposed a national music contest open to young performers and musicians. He stated the idea for the contest came after watching the 1986 Eurovision Song Contest that spring, in which 13-year old Sandra Kim from Belgium became the youngest ever Eurovision winner. Dorn's vision for the contest was not to feature young vocalists singing others' compositions, however. Rather, it was to promote the musical talent of young people by encouraging them to compose their own music and perform it themselves. The idea was a success, and the first Young Musicians Festival was planned for July of 1988. The 1988 RTSG Strike put the plans on hold, but after some minor revisions to the format, the first RTSG Young Musicians Competition was held on Saturday, 21st October 1989 at the Apex Theatre in Rossport.


The format of the competition has stayed largely the same over its 20-year history: young musicians submit their compositions for consideration, and a shortlist of entries is compiled and presented to the competition's organizers. The organizing committee then selects the best compositions from the shortlist to be performed live in the television programme. During this programme, after all the compositions have been performed, a panel of regional juries then proceed to cast votes for them. At the end of the programme, the winner is declared as the song with the most points. The winner receives, simply, the prestige of having won, though it is usual for a trophy to be awarded to the composer or composers. The programme ends with a reprise of the winning entry.

The programme is invariably opened by one or more presenters, welcoming viewers to the show. Between the songs and the announcement of the voting, an interval act is performed, which is often the previous year's winner, but can be any form of entertainment. The competition has always been held on a Saturday evening in October, at 8:00pm local time.

Between 1989 and 2000, the songs were voted on by the members of nine regional juries; one each for county and city in the country. Each jury awarded 10 through 1 points to its ten favorite songs in descending order. Beginning in 2001, viewers were given the opportunity to cast votes by telephone. The televotes constituted 50% of the total score, with the juries making up the remaining 50%. SMS voting was introduced in 2005.


To be eligible for the competition, a contestant must compose a piece of music and be willing to perform it on stage, either solo or with accompanying musicians. From 1988 to 1994, entries could not be longer than three minutes. The limit was extended to four minutes in 1995, and has remained the same ever since.

Originally, entrants were required to be between the ages of 14 and 20. Starting with the 1996 contest, the minimum age was raised to 16 years to comply with new legislation regarding television performances by minors. In 1998, the maximum age was raised to 25, after a complaint from the Dean of Theatre and Performing Arts at North Sea Catholic University that the upper-level music students should be given a chance to showcase their compositions also.

The number of submissions each year varies, and has grown nearly every year since the competition's inception. In 2007, a record 219 submissions were received. A composer may submit as many compositions as he or she wishes, though only one composition per composer can be performed in the competition. Traditionally, RTSG appoints an independent judging panel made up of music and television professionals to listen to the submissions and compile a shortlist of the best 20-30 compositions. This shortlist is then presented to the competition's reference committee, who then selects the entries that will be performed in the event. The number of entries featured in the competition has almost always been ten, although in 1992, 1995 and 2003, when the reference committee's scores ended in a tie, the number of entries featured were eleven, thirteen and eleven, respectively.

Several composers have performed in the competition more than once. The only person to have won the contest twice is Colin O'Byrne, who won in 1995 and 1998.


The very first Young Musicians Competition was held in the 750-seat Apex Theatre in Rossport. Since then, public and corporate interest in the competition has grown to such an extent that now, only a few venues in the country can host such a large television production, and also accommodate the increasing number of fans wishing to attend. Currently, the competition rotates between various theatres and concert halls in Rossport, Dungannon and Farset.


The voting system used in the competition is an application of the Borda count. Each of the nine juries awards a set of points from 1 to 10 to the entries performed, with the favorite composition being awarded 10 points. During the late 1990s, the competition was in danger of cancellation due to decreasing viewership. This was counteracted by introducing televoting in 2001. Currently, the nine juries account for 50% of the total score, with the remaining 50% of the points awarded being determined by the televoting results. Since 2005, SMS (text message) voting is also used. According to the reference committee, a number of electronic polling stations will be introduced beginning with the 2009 competition. The public participation in determining the winner was credited with reviving interest the contest, and the number of televotes and SMS votes cast has increased each year.


Year Date Host Venue Winner, Composer Score Runner-Up, Composer Score
1989 21st Oct 1989 Apex Theatre, Rossport "Drifting Away," Kenneth McKane 72 "Meet Me Tomorrow," Aaron Sowder 59
1990 6th Oct 1990 Dockside Concert Hall, Rossport "Touch the Sun," Joe Sheffield 79 "Chilly Night," Eric Densmore 69
1991 12th Oct 1991 Heritage Theatre, Dungannon "Out of Time," Faye Olivera 68 "From These Ashes," Adam Carver 67
1992 24th Oct 1992 Heritage Theatre, Dungannon "A Phoenix Shall Rise," Adam Carver 83 "Low Tide," Monica St. Croix 74
1993 9th Oct 1993 ?? ?? ??
1994 22nd Oct 1994 ?? ?? ??
1995 28th Oct 1995 ?? ??, Colin O'Byrne ?? ?? ??
1996 26th Oct 1996 ?? ?? ??
1997 25th Oct 1997 ?? ?? ??
1998 24th Oct 1998 ?? ??, Colin O'Byrne ?? ?? ??
1999 30th Oct 1999 ?? ?? ??
2000 28th Oct 2000 ?? ?? ??
2001 27th Oct 2001 ?? ?? ??
2002 12th Oct 2002 ?? ?? ??
2003 25th Oct 2003 ?? ?? ??
2004 23rd Oct 2004 ?? ?? ??
2005 15th Oct 2005 ?? ?? ??
2006 28th Oct 2006 ?? ?? ??
2007 27th Oct 2007 Heritage Theatre, Dungannon "Safe and Sound," Irina Kovac 202 "Coffee," David May 164
2008 18th Oct 2008 ?? ?? ??