Some of the best cellists in the country competed for high stakes on the Symphony Hall stage Sunday in Allentown.

"In the beginning it was more just about learning technique," explained Austin Huntington. "Once you get to the point where you don't need to think about that and you can think about the musicality, that's a point where there's nothing like it."

At 18, Huntington is the youngest artist performing in the Schadt String Competition. He started playing the cello at just four years old. Getting to Sunday's finals was a process that started months ago with 56 applicants.

"First we had to submit a preliminary CD," shared Christine Lamprea.

"There were nine semi-finalists," added Huntington.

"And now we have three finalists," smiled Lamprea.

She's been playing cello since she was 8-years-old.

"The piece I'm playing is not one of the most popular cello concerti's," described Lamprea. "It'll be a pleasure to just share it with everyone and expose them to something new."

Lamprea says getting ready for a competition of this level takes hard work..

"To prepare it for each performance I take a few weeks before and really delve into the score."

"Lots of hours in the practice room," said Huntington.

"It takes a lot of time and patience and dedication," stated Lamprea.

In its 17th year, each of the three finalists competed by playing a full concerto in front of a crowd of hundreds. All of the finalists earned cash prizes.

"Classical music is really important," shared Huntington. "It really is for everybody and once you really get into it, it's something you can't really come out of."

This year first place went to 23-year-old Lamprea. She takes home $8,000 and next March will perform a solo with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.

Next year's Schadt String Competition will feature classical guitarists, with violinists the following year.