Once again, Lee University’s School of Music will present its International Piano Festival and Competition, Monday through Friday.
The event, which began in 2005 as a competition for high school students, has been expanded this year to include opportunities for participants to study with internationally acclaimed artists.
At the same time, it offers the public a chance to take in some brilliant performances.
This year’s festival has attracted 21 outstanding young pianists to the Lee campus. The participants come from eight different states and from as far away as China and Taiwan. They range in age from middle school to college.
Acclaimed performers and teachers Russell Sherman, Wha Kyung Byun, and Jon Nakamatsu are the guest artists for this year’s festival.
Lee faculty Ning An and Dr. Gloria Chien will also contribute to the festival, which is chaired by Dr. Phillip Thomas.
One feature of this annual event is these special guest artists offer concerts to our community. There are also opportunities for the festival participants to perform for the public in a concert setting, applying the lessons learned in their daytime training. On the event’s final two days, the guest artists also serve as judges for a competition among nine of the festival participants.
This year’s festival will feature concerts each evening, Monday to Thursday, at Lee’s Squires Recital Hall. After a Monday afternoon registration period and an opening reception for the participants, Nakamatsu, An, and Chien will take the stage in the first concert, presenting a selection of pieces from Rameau, Mozart, Chopin, Bolcom, and Lutoslawski.
The concerts on Tuesday and Wednesday evening will feature selected festival participants, talented piano students from around the globe.
The final concert on Thursday evening will feature Sherman in a solo recital. The program includes works by Schumann and Liszt. Each of the four festival concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Squires Hall on the Lee campus and are free and open to the public.
Tuesday through Thursday, morning and afternoon master classes will be offered with An, Nakamatsu, Russell, and Byun. Faculty and guest artists will also offer private lessons.
On Friday, the competition will begin at 9:30 a.m. and showcase the talents of 9 high school students from across the country. Winners will be presented on the morning of Saturday, June 23, following the competition’s final round.
Russell Sherman is a world-renowned pianist and teacher, currently serving as the Distinguished Artist in Residence at the New England Conservatory of Music. Since his Town Hall debut at age 15, Sherman has been acclaimed as a soloist with many major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony.
Sherman was the first American to record both Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas and the five piano concertos. His critically acclaimed collection of essays about piano music was published in 1997.
Wha Kyung Byun is an international pianist and teacher who made her debut in Seoul, Korea, where she was named the most talented young artist in the country by Seoul’s leading newspaper. She has performed with major orchestras in Korea and the United States, including the National Symphony Orchestra.
Jon Nakamatsu is a highly celebrated concerto soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, solo recitalist, and the 1997 Gold Medalist of the Van Cliburn Piano Competition. Since he began studying piano at age six, Nakamatsu has performed with the finest orchestras around the globe, collaborating with such conductors as James Conlon, Keith Lockhart, and Michael Tilson Thomas.
Currently an assistant professor of piano at Lee University, Ning An is an international soloist. He has won top prizes at the Kapell, Queen Elizabeth, and Santander Competitions. Since beginning his musical studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, An has performed with orchestras such as the London Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, the Moscow Radio Symphony, and given master classes throughout the United States and Asia.
Gloria Chien, founder and artistic director of the String Theory Chamber Series, currently serves as a member of the Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston and an assistant professor at Lee. She has performed solo recitals around the world and earned distinction at countless competitions and festivals, including World Piano Competition and San Antonio Competition. Chien began her career in Taiwan, establishing herself at the National Piano Competition before coming to the United States at age 14.
Phillip Thomas serves as the chair for this year’s festival. Thomas has studied piano, music history, and conducting at some of the world’s finest institutions. A former member of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, he is currently the chair for the Department of Instrumental Music at Lee.