• The Piano Festival features both guest and Lee University faculty artists with comprehensive music backgrounds.

    Guest Artists

    Mack McCray

    Mack McCray

    Piano Department Chair at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music

    Mack McCray, born in California in 1943, studied at the Juilliard School in New York with Irwin Freundlich from 1963 to 1971. In the single season of 1969-1970, McCray won first prizes in the San Francisco Symphony's International Young Artists Competition and the Charleston Symphony Competition; Silver Medal at the International Enesco Competition in Bucharest, plus a special award for best performance of a contemporary Rumanian work; second prize at the International Liszt Competition in Boston; an Italian government citation for his performance at the Giornate Musicale festival in Todi, Italy; grants from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation and the Insitute for International Education: and Juilliard's Edward Steuermann Memorial Prize. During that same season McCray made his first tour of Europe, including London, Vienna, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Brussels and Zurich, among other cities.

    Since that year, Mack McCray has performed around the world, notably at the Paris Festivale d'automne, at Seville's Great Interpreters Series with the Monte Carlo Orchestra at the UNESCO Festival of International Artists in Monaco, at Hong Kong's City Hall Concert Series, at the Bucharest Philharmonic Bach-Beethoven-Brahms Festival; and Boston's Fromm Foundation Concerts at Harvard. In 1972 McCray founded an international chamber music festival in Trogen, Switzerland and for many years was concert accompanist for the Metropolitan Opera soprano Teresa Stratas. His recording of John Adams' piano work Phrygian Gates (New Albion Records) was placed on the Best Recordings of the Year (1981) lists of both the New York Times and High-Fidelity-Musical America.

    McCray has performed with such conductors as Michael Tilson Thomas, Edo de Waart, Josef Krips, Leon Fleisher, Arthur Fiedler and John Adams. He has been an invited soloist at the American Liszt Society Conference in Eugene, Oregon, the New Orleans International Piano Festival, the Atlanta Festival of the Arts and the Honolulu Academy of Art's Sounds of Our Time Festival. In 1991 he gave the American premiere of John Adams' new work for piano and orchestra, Eros Piano at the Cabrillo Music Festival. Recently McCray performed with the Japan Philharmonic in Tokyo, on the all-Schubert series at famed Trinity Church in Manhattan, at the Carmel Bach Festival, and at the Los Angeles County Art Museum, as well as in Alaska and across the United States. He currently is Artistic Director of the Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival in Courmayeur, Italy. Since 1971 he has been on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

    Visit Mack McCray's website.

    Enrico Elisi

    Enrico Elisi

    Associate Professor of Piano at Eastman School of Music; Artistic Director Musica Domani International Prize

    Enrico Elisi's interpretations have distinguished themselves for their “remarkable sensitivity, imagination and polish” (Baltimore Sun). Described by La Nueva España as “a true musician and a master of elegance, refinement and fantasy,” Elisi's approach to music-making has earned him a reputation for being eclectic. He has performed solo recitals and has been featured as soloist with several orchestras in the US and abroad, combining a busy concert schedule with workshops and masterclasses worldwide. A sought-after teacher Elisi leads a large class of successful international students at the Eastman School of Music. An active chamber musician, he began a collaboration with violinist Federico Agostini, a former leader of I Musici; Elisi has also been a frequent guest at several summer programs and has adjudicated a number of piano competitions (Tremplin International, Concours de Musique du Canada, Iowa Piano Competition, and Peabody Yale Gordon Competition); he also founded Musica Domani Prize—an international composition competition he presently directs.

    In Europe Elisi has appeared in prestigious venues such as La Fenice Theatre, Venice; Palazzo Vecchio, Florence; Bibbiena Theatre, Mantua; Pavarotti Opera House, Modena; Teatro Comunale and Sala Bossi, Bologna (Italy). He has also given recitals in Germany, Slovak Republic, and Spain. Recent performances in the Americas include recitals at the Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada), Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library, and the Third Lima Contemporary Music Festival, in Peru. In Asia, he performed in Korea, Taiwan, and China. Elisi has given master classes, workshops, and lectures at colleges and conservatories throughout the world, held a guest professorship at the China Zhejiang Art School in Hangzhou, China, and taught at Penn State University and University of Nevada.

    Elisi studied at the Conservatory of Florence, the world-renowned Incontri col Maestro International Piano Academy of Imola (Italy) and the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, earning two diplomas, MM, and DMA degrees. Among his teachers were Lazar Berman, Boris Petrushansky, Alexander Lonquich, and Leon Fleisher.

    Elisi’s latest CD, Mozart Piano Album, has been released in 2011; a subsequent release in 2012 features Paul Chihara’s Two Images on Albany Records.

    Visit Enrico Elisi's website.  

    Grace Fong

    Grace Fong

    Director of Keyboard Studies at Chapman University Conservatory of Music; Faculty at Claremont Graduate University for Doctoral Candidates of Piano Performance

    Grace Fong is the 2009 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow of the American Pianists Association. Praised as "positively magical," an artist of "rare eloquence and grace," American pianist Grace Fong performs internationally as a concerto soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. She has gained critical acclaim in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia, making appearances at major venues around the world, including Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Phillips Collection, Hollywood Bowl, Great Hall in Leeds, UK, Severance Hall in Cleveland, Ohio, the Liszt Academy in Budapest, Konzerthaus Dortmund, Germany, among others.

    Fong is a prizewinner of numerous international competitions, including the Leeds International Piano Competition in the United Kingdom, 2007 Bosendorfer International Piano Competition, San Antonio International Piano Competition, Viardo International Piano Competition, and the Cleveland International Piano Competition. Fong is the winner of one of America's most prestigious piano awards, the 2009 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship of the American Pianists Association. Fong has won the Grand Prize in piano from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts and was named a "Presidential Scholar in the Arts." Other prizes include Gold Medalist for the Wideman International Piano Competition, the winner of the Music Academy of the West Concerto Competition, the winner of the Cleveland Institute of Music Concerto Competition, 1st Prize in the Los Angeles Liszt Competition, 1st Prize in the Edith Knox Performance Competition.

    Fong is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music where she studied with Sergei Babayan who describes Dr. Fong as "not only a true artist and an exciting virtuoso, but a sensitive poet who can speak about the most important of subjects through the craft of her hands."

    Fong is currently the Director of Keyboard Studies at Chapman University Conservatory of Music where she was awarded the 2008 faculty excellence award at the Conservatory of Music. She is also faculty at Claremont Graduate University, teaching and advising Doctoral Candidates of Piano Performance. An enthusiastic supporter of the education of young musicians, Fong has served as guest artist and teacher at the Innsbrook Summer Festival, the New Hampshire Music Festival, the first Salt Spring Piano Festival, the Montecito Summer Festival 2008, and the Sitka Chamber Music Festival.

    Visit Grace Fong's website.  

    Faculty Artists

    Cahill Smith

    Cahill Smith

    Associate Professor of Piano at Lee University

    Born and raised in rural Alabama, pianist Cahill Smith began playing at age 10. Six years later, he made his orchestral debut with a local orchestra. While completing the Doctor of Musical Arts at the Eastman School of Music, he performed in two recitals in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall (New York City, N.Y.), as well as recitals at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall (Boston, Mass.), Rice University (Houston, TX), and a lecture-recital at Yale University (New Haven, Conn.).

    Smith has been featured as a concerto soloist with the National Ukranian Symphony Orchestra in Kiev, the Eastman Philharmonia, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, the Shoals Symphony Orchestra, and others. His solo performances have taken him to the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Royal Dublin Society’s concert hall, Kodak Hall, Kilbourn Hall, Hatch Halls at the Eastman School of Music, the Aspen Music Festival’s Harris Hall, Stamps Auditorium and the Britton Recital Hall in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall, and Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Center.

    Smith’s programming of works by little-known Russian composer Nikolai Medtner has attracted the attention of audiences and critics. The East Hampton Star said, “The unexpected gems of the afternoon were two of Nikolai Medtner’s Vergessene Weisen (‘Forgotten Melodies’), played by Cahill Smith. I was not familiar with these works, but in Mr. Smith’s hands they were absolutely endearing.”

    Smith holds the Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance from the Eastman School of Music, where he served as the teaching assistant to Natalya Antonova. He was inducted into the Pi Kappa Lambda honor society for his academic achievements and contributions to the musical community at Eastman. Smith held three graduate teaching assistantships at Eastman, and was awarded the 2011-2012 Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

    Smith completed the Master of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Michigan with Arthur Greene, and the Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with Yakov Kasman. Other influential teachers include Ann Schein, the late Betty Sue Shepherd, Ronald Shinn, and Margaret Moore.

    Visit Cahill Smith's website.

    Ning An

    Ning An

    Top Prize winner: Kapell, Queen Elizabeth,
    and Santander Competitions;
    international soloist and teacher

    Pianist Ning An, is a rare pianist who has been hailed as a musician who “combines a flawless technique and mastery of the instrument with an expressive power that is fueled by profound and insightful understanding.” (New York Concert Review) His top prizes from the Queen Elizabeth, Cleveland, and William Kapell Piano Competitions led to performances from Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, Salle Verdi (Milan), to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. He has been invited to perform at numerous festivals, including the International Chopin Festival in Duszinski, Poland, the Gina Bachauer Piano Festival in Salt Lake City, New Hampshire's Monadnock Music Festival, the Bourglinster Festival in Luxembourg, and the Interlaken Music Festival in Switzerland. A passionate chamber musician as well as soloist, Mr. An has performed with groups such as the Ysaye, Daedalus, and Takacs Quartets as well as instrumentalists James Buswell, Paul Neubauer, Andres Diaz and Soovin Kim.

    Since making his orchestral debut at the age of 16 with the Cleveland Orchestra, Mr. An has been a featured soloist with orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, the Stuttgart Philarmonic, Tivoli Symphony Orchestra, the Belgian National Symphony, the Flemish Radio Symphony, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra and the Taipei Symphony Orchestra under the batons of conductors such as Vladimir Fedosseyev, Jorg-Peter Weigle, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, etc. Mr. An was also a featured soloist during the 100th Anniversary American Tour made by the Warsaw Philharmonic and Maestro Kazmierz Kord.

    Ning An has also been a top prize winner of the Paloma O’Shea Santander Competition, the Tivoli International Piano Competition, the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition and the Alfred Cortot Prize winner of the International Chopin Piano Comeptition.

    Mr. An began his musical studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Olga Radosavljevich and Sergei Babayan. Subsquently, Mr. An continued his studies under the tutelage of Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music.

    A frequent guest lecturer himself, Mr. An has given masterclasses throughout the United States and Asia. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor of Piano at Lee University, Tennessee. He is a Steinway Artist.

    Gloria Chien

    Gloria Chien

    Prize winner: World Piano and
    San Antonio Competitions;
    collaborative pianist,
    Chameleon Arts Boston, Music @ Menlo

    Pianist Gloria Chien has been praised by Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe for "a wondrously rich palette of colors, which she mixes with dashing bravado and with an uncanny precision of calibration…Chien's performance had it all, and it was fabulous."

    Dr. Chien has presented solo recitals at the Gardner Museum, Harvard Musical Association, the Monadnock Music Festival in New Hampshire, the Caramoor Festival in New York State, and the National Concert Hall in Taiwan. She has appeared as a featured soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall under the baton of Maestro Keith Lockhart and Thomas Dausgaard. In addition, she has been soloist with the New England Conservatory Honors Orchestra under Maestro Sergiu Comissiona, and the NEC Youth Philharmonic conducted by Benjamin Zander. Dr. Chien was invited to travel with the Massachusetts delegation and former Governor William Weld to perform several concerts in Chile. Dr. Chien has attended the Verbier Music Festival in Switzerland in 1999, as well as the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA in 2001.

    In 1994, Dr. Chien won first prize in the Harry Dubbs Memorial Competition, the Harvard Musical Association Achievement Award, the New England Conservatory Preparatory School Concerto Competition, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra Youth Concerto Competition. In 1995, she placed second in the Fite Family National Piano Competition, as well as in the Oberlin International Piano Competition. She was the winner of the New England Conservatory Piano Department Concerto Competition in 1998, and has recently placed fifth at the 2000 World Piano Competition in Cincinnati. She was the third prize winner of the 2000 San Antonio International Piano Competition where she also received the prize for the Best Performance of the Commissioned Work.

    Gloria Chien began playing the piano at the age of five in her native Taiwan, where she won both divisions of the National Piano Competition before coming to the United States when she was fourteen. She has completed a masters degree and an undergraduate degree at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and recently earned her Doctoral of Musical Arts Degree. Her private teachers have included Russell Sherman and Wha-Kyung Byun.

    Dr. Chien is currently a member of the Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston and an assistant professor at the Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn. Her recording of music for violin and piano by Grazyna Bacewicz with fellow Chameleon Joanna Kurkowicz was recently released on Chandos.

    Competition Chair

    Phillip Thomas

    Phillip Thomas

    An alumnus of Lee’s music program, Phillip Thomas returned to his alma mater as a keyboard instructor in 1977. Since then, he has filled a number of roles, including classroom and studio teacher, accompanist, ensemble director, and administrator.

    Currently, his teaching responsibilities include Music History, Performance Practice and Piano. Thomas also chairs the Department of Instrumental Music and serves on a number of University committees. For the past two years, he has led the Steering Committee of Lee’s Piano Festival and Competition since its inception.

    Thomas has served as adjudicator for a variety of competitions on the local, regional, and international levels. His students often receive the highest ratings; some have won their respective divisions. Thomas is listed in Who’s Who Among American Teachers.

    A year after graduating summa cum laude from Lee, Thomas completed the master’s degree in piano from the Peabody Conservatory. He later completed the Ph.D. degree in Music History from the University of Cincinnati, where he was the recipient of a full-tuition scholarship and an assistantship in Music Theory. His dissertation was entitled Music for One or More Alternately Tuned Acoustic Pianos, 1920-1993: Trends in Melody, Harmony, and Technique.

    In 1996, Thomas founded the University’s Orchestra, after serving as founding conductor of a community string orchestra for several years. He studied conducting at the Institute Provençe-Aubagne in France with Yves Cohen, a student of Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa.

    Off campus, he has served as board member for the Tennessee Music Teachers Association and Chattanooga Youth Symphony. In the 1980s, he was keyboardist for the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra and has appeared with them on numerous occasions since. Thomas has also served as reviewer for several college textbooks, including the second edition of Douglass Seaton’s Ideas and Styles in the Western Musical Tradition, published by McGraw-Hill. For the past several years, he has been staff pianist for the Mount Paran North Church of God just outside Atlanta, GA.