The competition drawing musicians from around the world to Kalamazoo

Starla Breshears warming up on stage

Starla Breshears, 2023 Stulberg Competition Bronze Medalist/2024 Finalist © 2024 NowKalamazoo/Catalina Gonzalez

The Stulberg String Competition puts Kalamazoo on the path to a music career, right up there with cities like New York and Los Angeles.


The 49th competition, held over a weekend in May, drew the most applicants ever – 237 musicians, ages 8 to 20, who traveled as far away as South Korea and China for a chance at the prize.

“To get to play in front of a professional orchestra as a soloist is what they want to do with their lives … they don’t get the opportunity to do this as much at this age especially,” says Executive Director Megan Yankee. Winning a gold, silver, or bronze medal at the Stulberg String Competition earns musicians solo performances in Kalamazoo and beyond, plus thousands of dollars in prize money.

“This is such a big competition, just having it on your bio is a really big deal … when they see Stulberg they’re like ‘that person must be really good,’” says 16-year-old cellist Starla Breshears, who won the bronze medal last year.

The competition started in 1976, founded by Esther Leiberman in memory of her husband, Julius Stulberg, a highly-respected teacher of violin. “Personally I think it’s one of the most under-appreciated events in this city… it’s become something that’s known far beyond Kalamazoo and Michigan. It’s starting to have international spread and that’s something that Kalamazoo should be proud of,” says their son Bernie Stulberg.

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