NextGen National

2023 NextGen National Finalists Headed to NYC’s Lincoln Center

Congratulations to our ten outstanding vocalists who will compete in the 2023 NextGen National Finals at Lincoln Center on Sunday, February 19:

  • Sarah Cassidy (Indiana University)
  • Jayna Glynn (Missouri State)
  • Mya Hunter (Howard University)
  • Hannah Kulawiak (Indiana University)
  • David Mejia (Texas Christian University)
  • Chris Richie (Oklahoma City University)
  • TJ Staten (Webster University)
  • Yumeko Stern (New York University)
  • Anthony Voiers (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
  • Sam Yousuf (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music)
  • Christian Clausnitzer - Alternate (West Virginia University)
  • Jordyn Taylor - Alternate (Howard University)

Our finalists will receive an all-expense-paid trip to New York City where they will participate in a masterclass with Broadway professionals, rehearse with APO musicians, attend a Broadway show, and compete in the Finals. First place winners will receive $2,000 and second place winners will receive $1,000. All winners will receive multiple paid performance opportunities with The American Pops Orchestra.

The American Pops Orchestra is committed to preserving classic American music. We present concerts that showcase music from all sectors of the American experience – featuring our nation’s most talented and celebrated artists. Our NextGen National: Finding the Voices of Tomorrow competition allows us to showcase the next generation of great performers. The competition strives to expose college-aged students to songs with which they are unfamiliar. To enter, contestants must sing pre-1970 American popular songs not found in the Singer’s Musical Theater Anthology for their voice type.

Founded in 2018, our NextGen competition began with students from five universities and has now expanded to include students from across the United States and Canada. During the COVID-19 pandemic NextGen transitioned to a virtual setting, allowing us to reach an even wider audience and larger pool of aspiring young artists.

NextGen strives to provide opportunities to each and every student who wishes to participate; there is absolutely no cost to compete. In addition, APO provides free masterclasses about performing, recording, and working in the music industry, among other topics. Competitors also receive accompaniment tracks and custom arrangements free of charge.  Selected finalists are invited to perform live with members of The American Pops Orchestra in the final round, with all expenses covered by APO. First place female and male vocalist winners receive a $1,000 scholarship and second place winners each receive a $500 scholarship. All winners also receive a paid performance opportunity with the orchestra.

APO is proud to award the Chip Hand Prize for Vocal Excellence to the first place male vocalist. Made possible by the generous support of Ambassador Lloyd and Ann Hand, the prize memorializes their beloved son who was an acclaimed musician and recording artist. The annual presentation of the award allows Chip’s legacy to live on through young, aspiring performers.



  • Chip Hand Prize for Vocal Excellence
    Ethan Hardy Benson
  • First Place Female Winner
    Audri Bartholomew
  • Second Place Male Winner
    Franco Valerga
  • Second Place Female Winners
    Mya Hunter


  • Chip Hand Prize for Vocal Excellence
    Noah Canales
  • First Place Female Winner
    Maya Sistruck
  • Second Place Male Winner
    Edward Ferran
  • Second Place Female Winner
    Madison Russell
    Deepa Johnny


  • Chip Hand Prize for Vocal Excellence
    Zac Doss
  • First Place Female Winner
    Alexa Joseph
  • Second Place Male Winner
    Brody Grant
  • First Place Female Winner
    Rashonda Bentley


  • Chip Hand Prize for Vocal Excellence
    Jose Mangual
  • First Place Female Winner
    Rita Castagna
  • Second Place Male Winner
    Kodiak Thompson
  • Second Place Female Winner
    Ally Dods


  • First Place Male Winner
    Evan LaChance
  • First Place Female Winner
    Nia Savoy
  • Second Place Male Winner
    Paul Roeckell
  • Second Place Female Winner
    Abby Middleton

A Message from The APO

The American Pops Orchestra has made it a priority to not only maintain Pre-COVID content in a virtual form, but also create new content to keep our audience engaged and our musicians employed.  As an organization that strives to break the mold of concerts, we are using COVID-19 to reimagine our normal operations.  Since March we have streamed two full original concerts, created solo performances by instrumentalist and vocalists, rethought our Music and Mindfulness series as a more often and virtual event, and partnered with organizations across the country in our virtual trivia series.  

In addition, APO has held multiple in-person socially distanced outdoor Porch Concerts that provide our audience with the opportunity to safely see live art despite the current situation around us.  Throughout the pandemic, APO has employed hundreds of musicians and artists and in a time when many other organizations couldn’t. In the words of Maestro Luke Frazier, “we never stopped.”

Moving forward, APO is proud to present our NextGen National vocal competition which will include students from across the country competing virtually for the chance to win a monetary prize and the opportunity to perform in a future APO MainStage Show. This will include a virtual audition and semi-finals with a live (COVID permitting) finals in Spring of 2021.  APO has also filmed multiple productions that will be broadcast nationally on PBS.  APO has been grateful to keep creating and making music despite the limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will keep working to bring you, our valued audience, original and unique content.

To support APO as we keep moving forward you can click here, so that we can continue to employ more artists and musicians.  If you have any questions about what APO has been doing during the pandemic, please email Thank you and stay safe.