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.

Former NextGen winners performing with APO on the set of "Wicked in Concert"

2021 Winners:

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

2020 Winners:

  • 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

2019 Winners:

  • 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

2018 Winners:

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