Lee News

Lee Welcomes 20 Students to Campus for 2019 Piano Festival



Lee University’s 15th annual International Piano Festival and Competition will feature 31 students, 18 of whom will vie for cash and scholarship awards beginning Tuesday, June 25.

The competition is part of a week of concerts and professional instruction. Sixteen students will showcase their skills in the pre-college competition: Amy Bao, Kimiko Darcy, Raymond Hou, Savannah Howard, Malvyn Lai, Charlie Li, Ewan Manalo, Angela Mei, Jonathan Mei, Grace Peng, Haruki Takeuchi, Katherina Tsai, Luke Turner, Elizabeth Qiu, Kasey Shao, and Warren Xu. Two students will participate in the college competition: Baron Cao and Chad Miller.

The first round of the competition for pre-college students will take place Tuesday and Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Squires Hall, located in Lee’s Humanities Center. The final pre-college round begins Friday at 7 p.m. This year’s judges include Natalya Antonova, Heather Conner, Henry Wong-Doe, Jonathan Jung, Cahill Smith, and Phillip Thomas. Smith and Thomas will serve as artistic director and executive director of the festival, respectively. The college competition will take place Wednesday at 3 p.m.

A faculty artist recital with Wong-Doe and Jung will take place Monday, June 24, at 7 p.m. in the Lee University Chapel. On Tuesday, June 25 at 7 p.m. there will be a recital in Squires Recital Hall featuring faculty artists Conner and Smith. All performances are free and open to the public.

The prize and scholarship money totals $10,000. Prizewinners for both levels will be named following the pre-college final round Friday evening. There is also the potential for a prize based on vote of the audience.

Bao, 16, studies piano with Annamarie and John McCarthy in San Francisco. She has been enrolled in the Pre-College Division at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and has attended the International Institute for Young Musicians and the Southeastern Piano Festival. Most recently, Bao has been a top prizewinner in the 2019 Ross McKee Piano Competition, the 2019 Steinway Junior Piano Competition, the 2019 Young Arts Competition of the Etude Club of Berkeley, and various others.

Darcy, 14, attends the Latin School of Chicago. Her piano competition awards include first place in the Emilio Del Rosario Concerto Competition elementary division; first place in the Society of American Musicians junior division and intermediate division; first place at the Baltimore International Piano Competition, and winner of the Walgreens’ National Concerto Competition. She has also performed at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall as the first prize winner of the Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition.

Hou, 13, lives in Montgomery, Alabama. He started playing piano at five years old and currently studies with Ronald Shinn. He has won a total of 38 piano awards in competitions, including the First Place Winner Award for Junior Piano in MTNA for Alabama, the Alternate Award (Second Place Winner) for Senior Piano Duet in the Southern Division MTNA with Savannah Howard, the First Place Winner for Junior Piano in GCSS Competition, and the First Place Winner in UAH Piano Competition for both Junior Solo and Senior Duet.

Howard, 17, is from Birmingham, Alabama. She has been playing the piano for 12 years and currently studies with Shinn. Howard has received top prizes in the Future Stars International Piano Competition, the Nashville Steinway competition, and the Lois Pickard Concerto Competition, among others. After being named the Grand Prize Winner of the Lois Pickard Concerto Competition, Howard was able to make her orchestral debut with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in February 2019.

Lai, 14, is from San Diego. He started learning piano at age five and currently pursues music studies under the tutelage of Ning An. At age 10, he made his orchestral debut with Kostroma Symphony Orchestra in Kostroma, Russia. His recent competition accomplishments include first place in the 2019 Parness Young Artist Competition and top prizes and best audience award in 2018 International William Knabe International Piano Competition, Los Angeles International Piano competition, and International Keyboard Oyssiad Festival competition.

Li, age 16, is a rising junior at Lakeside High School in Evans, Georgia. He started playing piano at the age of five and studies with Dr. Elena Cholakova. He made his orchestral debut with the Augusta Symphony after winning its concerto competition. He was a prize winner of the 2019 Emory University Young Artist Piano Competition and was a winner of the Atlanta Romantic and Impressionistic Piano Competition in 2018.

Manalo,13, arrived in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2016 and started studying under Smith at Lee University that fall. The year prior to that, he had begun piano studies with Keiko Sekino at East Carolina University. Under Smith, Manalo solidified his piano fundamentals and developed a broader repertoire. In 2018, he was selected as first runner up for MTNA and the following year was awarded honorable mention.

Angela Mei, 13, is from Charleston, South Carolina. She began her piano study at the age of five and currently learns piano under Dr. Irina Pevzner. She is the state winner for the 2018 MTNA Junior Piano Performance Competition. She was also a solo recitalist for the 2018 South Carolina Music Teacher Association (SCMTA) pre-college Piano Competition, and first prize winner of the Louise Mathis Piano Scholarship audition.

Jonathan Mei, 10, is from Charleston, South Carolina. He has studied piano with Pevzner for five years. Jonathan has performed extensively at various concert series and events around the greater Charleston area, including the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Academy’s Rush Hour Concert Series, and Music Matters! Series. He has won the statewide SCMTA Piano Competition and recently won first prize in 2019 Steinway Junior Piano Competition.

Peng, 14, has earned numerous accolades in piano since she started at age five. She is the youngest winner of the Ruth Kern Concerto Competition and soloed with them later in 2016. She performed in an Atlanta Steinway benefits concert and was a finalist in the 2018 Osaka International Piano Competition; recently, she has attended the 2018 Lee University Piano Festival and the 2018 Oberlin Piano Festival. Peng studies under the tutelage of Dr. Raffi Besalyan at Georgia State University.

Takeuchi, 13, is a native of Midland, Michigan, later moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he studied with Stephanie Northington. More recently, Takeuchi has studied advanced repertoire under Dr. David Northington. Takeuchi was awarded a first prize in the Tennessee Music Teachers Association State Competition earlier this year.

Fifteen-year-old pianist Tsai from North Carolina studies with Dr. Dmitri Vorobiev. Tsai was one of the finalists in the Piano Grade 10 Ontario Music Festival Association in 2015, honorable mention in the junior division at MTNA 2017, and the first prize of the 2018 Steinway & Sons Competition in Raleigh. Tsai is also certified with Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Grade 10 Piano Practical Examinations, Harmony and History.

Turner, 15, from Birmingham, Alabama, is a Myra Jackson Blair Scholar at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, where he studies with Conner. Turner won the Curb Concerto Competition and performed the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with the Nashville Symphony. He won the 2018 Curb Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition and was Alternate at the 2018 Alabama MTNA Senior Piano competition. He was a MNTA National Finalist in 2018 and won the piano division of the 2017 Lois Pickard Concerto Competition.

Qiu, 15, is a freshman at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland. She has been playing the piano for eight years and is currently studying with Dr. Marjorie Lee. Since making her orchestral debut at age 10 with the Washington Conservatory Orchestra, Qiu has won many competitions, including first place in the 27th and 29th International Young Artists Piano Competition. Qiu has performed at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage twice, and her performance was once aired on the WQXR radio station.

Shao, 15, student of Ran Dank and rising junior from Cincinnati, made her orchestral debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kimmel Center when she was 12 years old. She won Best Solo prize and the second prize at the national MTNA competition and the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition. She has performed three times at the Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall and appeared in a 6ABC Special, Local 12 news, a CincyLifestyle Special, and the Cleveland Classical.

Xu, 17, is a junior at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, California, and currently studies with John McCarthy. He has received top prizes in several competitions, such as a first place award in the US Open in the Showcase category, as well as third place in the 2018 Romantic division of the American Fine Arts Festival. He also loves jazz and plays violin and the alto saxophone in his school bands. In the future, he plans to double major with music in college.

Cao, from State College, Pennsylvania, recently claimed Third Prize at the 2018 New York Piano Competition and Festival and has been nationally recognized twice as an award winner of the National YoungArts Foundation. He has also been awarded first prizes at the Eastern Division Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Finals, the Pennsylvania MTNA Finals, and Williamsport Symphony Concerto Competition. He studies with Dea Baba and is an alumnus of the Aspen Music Festival and Tanglewood Institute.

Miller, of Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, won first prizes at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Piano Arts Competition, Tennessee Tech University Young Artist Piano Competition, and the Young Musician’s Competition at the University of Memphis Piano Festival. He also placed second at Nashville International Piano Competition and was a finalist in the Emory University Young Artist Piano Competition. He currently studies at Lee University with Smith as a recipient of a Young Musician’s Award.

For more information on the Lee University International Piano Festival and Competition, including free concerts, contact Lee’s Department of Musicianship Studies at (423) 614-8264, music@leeuniversity.edu or visit www.leeupiano.com.

For the full competition and performance schedule, visit Piano Festival.
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