Outstanding high school and college student pianists from across the country were winners of the Jazz and Classical Piano Competitions during the Keyboard Festival and Competition hosted by the College of Creative Arts and the School of Music at West Virginia University June 24-28.

Titled “The Intersection of Jazz and Classical Music: a Piano Festival for Students and Teachers,” the event explored the many ways jazz and classical music intersect and influence each other and featured internationally known pianists Ann Schein and Dan Haerle as special guest artists.

Twenty-two students from across the United States took part in the piano competitions for both high school and college students in the areas of jazz and classical music. They were selected on the basis of performances and letters of recommendation.

Prizes included substantial cash awards, as well as performing opportunities.

The winners include:

College Classical Competition:

First Place (tied): Sam Gingher of Urbana, Ill., student of Dr. Timothy Ehlen, is currently a doctoral candidate in Piano Performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was the second place winner of the 2012 Intersection of Jazz and Classical Music Classical Competition, and won first place in the 2011 Brevard Piano Festival solo Piano Competition. In 2010, Gingher was the winner of the 21st Century Piano Commission Competition at UIUC. He won concerto competitions at UIUC (2007) and University of North Carolina Chapel-Hill (2005), performing with both orchestras.

First Place (tied): Yuting Zhou, of Pittsburgh, Pa., student of Dr. David Allen Wehr, is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in music at Duquesne University where she is the pianist for the Duquesne Symphony Orchestra and Duquesne Wind Symphony. Early in 2013 Zhou and her piano duo partner Anna Kovalevska won first prize at the United States International Duo Piano Competition. They also won the Pittsburgh Concert Society Major Audition in 2012. Other awards include first prize at the 15th Hong Kong-Asia Piano Open competition, first prize at the 2010 Irmler Klavier Wettbewerb, and the gold medal at the 2nd Art Festival of International Adolescents in Hong Kong.

Honorable Mention: Michael King-Hon Tsang, of Pittsburgh, Pa., student of Dr. Paul Schenly and Dr. Kathryn Brown, is currently working on his bachelor’s degree in music at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Tsang was pianist of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra 2007-2011, was an award winner in the Young Artist competitions of the Steinway Society 2006-2011, and was 2010 winner of concerto competitions with the Butler Symphony Orchestra and the Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra. He has performed in master classes with György Sándor, Emmanuel Ax, and Lang Lang.

High School Classical Competition:

First Place: Brian Le, of Silver Spring, Md., student of Nancy O’Neill Breth, has participated in many competitions and festivals. He has won first place at the state level of the MTNA Junior competition and alternate in the Eastern division in 2011. He received first in the 27th international Young Artists Piano Competition in Washington, D.C. He won first place at the Ylda Novik Concerto Competition in 2012, and most recently was selected to play in the semi-finals of the 2013 ILYM International Piano Competition. He has also performed in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall and the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.

Second Place: Charles Oestreich, of Pittsburgh, Pa., student of Marina Lupinacci, has won multiple competitions including the Pittsburgh Concert Society Competition, the Duquesne Young Artist Competition (solo and duet divisions), and the Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association state competition, advancing to the Eastern regional competition. Most recently he won the 2012 Lois Streator/Lois Smith Memorial Award Competition sponsored by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association (PMTA), and second place in the McKeesport Symphony Concerto Competition.

College Jazz Competition:

First Place: Eric Krouse, of Summerville, Pa., attends Oberlin Conservatory of Music majoring in Jazz Studies where he studies both jazz and classical piano. He has been working as a professional since age 13. Honors include the Oberlin Conservatory Dean’s Talent Award, the 2012 Jack Rowley Music Scholarship, and the 2012 Blackwoods Theater Organ Society Music Scholarship. He attended the 2011 Eastman School of Music summer high school jazz program and was a featured performer with the Clarion University Symphony.

Second Place: Grace Leong Zhe Fui, was born in Tawau, Malaysia and started playing the piano when she was 15 years old. She acquired a diploma in music from Yamaha Academy of Arts and Music and has performed in hotels, on cruises, and in pubs around Asia, including Macau, Singapore, and Thailand. She is currently a senior undergraduate student, pursuing her bachelor of music degree in Jazz Studies at WVU as a recipient of a Fine Arts Scholarship. Grace performs and hosts weekly jam sessions at Morgantown Brewing Company, among other local restaurants and pubs and was invited to participate at the Annual West Virginia Wine and Jazz Festival in 2012. Under the guidance of her teacher, Dr. James Miltenberger, she has been able to explore more classical music along with jazz.

Honorable Mention: Jacob Womack, of Beckley, W.Va., earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance in the spring of 2013 from WVU where he studied both classical and jazz piano with Dr. James Miltenberger. Womack holds a master’s degree in Piano Pedagogy and Performance from Penn State University and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from WVU. His recent performances include guest artist appearances at Westminster College and the Staunton Music Festival. In his doctoral research Womack studied the origins of stride piano.

High School Jazz Competition:

First Place: David Donaldson, of Morgantown, W.Va., student of Grace Leong, will be graduating from Morgantown High School in May 2013. His musical experiences include four years in the MHS Jazz ensemble (one year on trumpet and three years as pianist); two years in the Symphonic Band and two years in Wind Ensemble (trumpet); four years in the Red and Blue Marching Band (trumpet); and 1st chair trumpet in the West Virginia All-State Orchestra. He performs regularly for church services and nursing homes.

Second Place: Brian Donaldson, of Morgantown, W.Va., student of Grace Leong, is finishing his sophomore year at Morgantown High School. His music experiences include performing with the Morgantown High School Jazz Ensemble, Symphonic Band and the Red and Blue Marching Band. He was recently selected to attend the Governor’s School for the Arts.

The judges for the semi-final competitions included Bradford Gowen, associate professor of piano at the University of Maryland (High School and Collegiate Classical Competitions) and Neil Donato, jazz and classical pianist of southeast Michigan (High School and Collegiate Jazz Competitions).

Judges for the final competitions were Ann Schein (classical) and Dan Haerle (jazz).

The WVU Keyboard Festival and Competition was made possible through the West Virginia University Extended Learning Awards Summer 2013 Grants.

The awards are made possible through the generous support of the WVU College of Creative Arts and Dean Paul K. Kreider, Paul G. Benedum, Jr., the Margaret Butman Fund, Dr. Jeffrey B. Jackson-Mountain State Dermatology, Patricia Neeper and the Steinway Piano Gallery, Pittsburgh, the West Virginia Wine and Jazz Festival and the Keyboard Festival and Competition.

Classical pianist Ann Schein, who was guest artist, was interviewed by WQED radio on June 28 and said of the WVU festival: “Tremendous things are happening here! There are high standards and everyone I met is full of excitement for their lives and their music. It is a tremendous pocket of beauty!”



CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
304.293.4359, Charlene.Lattea@mail.wvu.edu

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