In the years that the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation is not holding finals in Salt Lake City for its rolling competition program, June becomes piano festival month, as Kary Billings, the foundation’s executive director, explains.
This year’s event (June 22-25) sees the participation of six young pianists, aged between 14 and 16, who take lessons from eight to 11 years. But they have already amassed an impressive competition and performance portfolio in and out of the United States. They will participate in a series of masterclasses, led by guest artists and Douglas Humpherys, who won Bachauer’s first international competition and is the Foundation’s current artistic director.
Alongside the masterclasses, which will take place during the day and will be free and open to the public, there will be three programs with the guest artists in two evenings (23 June and 24 June) and the festival will end with a performance with all six young pianists on June 25. The masterclasses will be held at 10:00 and 14:00 on 23 June with Humpherys and then again on 24 June with guest artist Boris Slutsky. The evening concert on June 23 will feature Slutsky, while the evening concert on June 24 will feature Fantee Jones. The festival opens on June 22 with a reception at 7pm where artists and students will meet and welcome guests. All events will be held at the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts, with master classes and concerts in the Jeanné Wagner Theater.
Billings says the students are “extraordinarily good” in every respect. Humpherys adds that master classes are great opportunities for audience members who often ask questions about the background of the performance and practice. Some of the more popular questions ask how young performers master the art of memorizing such complex sheet music. The interactive dynamic is enlightening because all six students will participate in each master class. In the master class, students respond “very quickly” to suggestions that fine-tune their musicality and technique, says Humpherys, adding that they show “real improvement” as they rise to the next peak in their playing skills. She explains that the master class is also a good way to dismantle the proverbial fourth wall on stage, which encourages both the musicians and the audience to feel more comfortable communicating with each other. The master classes help young musicians to cultivate their stage presence.
Guest artists are well known in the Bachauer family. With a professional career that began more than 40 years ago, Boris Sluckij he emerged on the international music scene when he won First Prize along with all major prizes, including the Audience Award and the Wilhelm Backhaus Award, at the 1981 William Kapell International (University of Maryland) Piano Competition. His other achievements include first prizes at the Kosciuszko Chopin Competition and at the San Antonio International Keyboard Competition, and important prizes at the Bach International Competition in memory of Glenn Gould, Gina Bachauer, Busoni, Rina Sala Gallo and Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Competitions. Born in Moscow, he is visiting professor of piano at the Yale School of Music.
Infantryman Jonesa Taiwanese-American pianist and violinist living in Roseville, California gave her first solo recital at age seven and made her concert debut Mozart Piano Concerto in A major, K. 488 at the age of ten. She was semifinalist at the National Chopin Piano Competition 2020, winner of the Eastman School Concerto Competition 2019, finalist at the Serge and Olga Koussevitzky Young Artist Awards 2018, winner of the Los Angeles International Piano Competition 2018 and winner of the Piano Texas International Young Artists Concerto Competition, among the other. Jones is a triple threat as a musician, with piano, violin and flute in her bailiwick. Most recently, she received the Excellence in Accompanying Awards at the Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, New York, where she continued her studies with Alexander Kobrin, another well-known name in Bachauer circles. She recently completed work on her doctorate in musical arts, running and piano literature and a minor in piano pedagogy.
Among the students selected for the festival:
Grace Feng, 15, studying with Ilana Vered and Carol Chuang, has won numerous awards in numerous piano competitions, including first prize at the MTAC Northern California Piano Solo and Concerto Competition, CAPMT Honors Competition State Final and CAPMT Concerto Competition State Final. She was the Grand Prix winner of the Auburn Symphony Young Artists Competition 2020 and the winner of the MTNA California Piano Competition 2021-22. Internationally, she received second prize at the Harmonium OnlinePlus International Piano Competition and a scholarship at the San Jose 2021 International Piano Competition. She performed with the Folsom Lake College Youth Chamber Orchestra, the Florence Conservatory Orchestra at the Music Fest Perugia in Italy and the Auburn Symphony.
Matteo Liu, 14, has been studying piano for eight years and is a student of Professor Jack Winerock at the University of Kansas. Most recently, he won first prizes at the Kansas City Symphony Young Artist Concerto Competition, the Chopin International Competition in Hartford Connecticut, the Paderewski International Piano Competition and the IPPA Conero International Piano Competition. He was a solo round contestant at the 2021 Gina Bachauer International Junior Piano Competition. He performed at the Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, the Ward Recital Hall of the Catholic University of America in Washington DC, and the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City. He has performed concerts with the Midwestern Chamber Orchestra, the Topeka Symphony and the Kansas City Symphony.
Yinghan Wang, 15, began piano studies at the age of five and is studying with Ching-Yun Hu, whom Bachauer’s audiences might remember from his spectacular all-Liszt program in March at the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts. He has received awards in numerous competitions, including first prizes at Singapore International Junior Competition 2015, Hong Kong International Junior Piano Competition 2015 and Suzhou Jianwu Cup Junior Piano Competition 2013. He also won second prize at the American Chopin International Junior Competition in Hartford Connecticut and third prize at the Philadelphia International Piano Competition 2020. Other performances include a Mozart concert with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Orchestra and a broadcast at WRTI Classical Radio in Philadelphia.
Elsie Lu, 16, began studying piano at the age of five with Rada Bukhman and is a student of Dr. Sasha Starcevich. Lu won first prize at Canimex Canadian Music Competition 2021 and platinum prize at Grand Metropolitan International Music Competition 2022. she was gold medalist at US Northwest Chopin Festival, Seattle Pacific NW Piano Competition and Steinway Canada Young Artist Competition. You have performed concerts with various orchestras, including the Bruensis Virtuosi, the MusicFest Perugia Orchestra and the Bellevue Symphony. She is also a published poet, with works in Intuitionand his paintings were published in the book of the music collection The magical bond.
Nathaniel Zhang, 15, who started piano studies at the age of five, is currently studying with Dr. Sasha Starcevich. Zhang won first prizes at the National MTNA Junior Competition 2018-2019 and at the Virginia Waring International Junior Competition 2019. she received the second prize at the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition, the fifth prize at the International Piano-E Junior Competition and the second prize at the San Jose International Piano Competition. You have performed concerts with the Florence Conservatory Orchestra of Perugia, Italy and the Northwest Philharmonia. She will perform with the Seattle and Auburn Symphonies in the 2022-23 season. Nathaniel also loves playing chamber music and regularly performs at “Rising Stars of Chamber Music” concerts.
Philina Zhang, 15, who began piano studies at the age of three, currently studies with Irina Morozova at the Special Music School in New York City. He has won numerous prizes in international piano competitions, including first prizes at the Thirteenth International Piano Competition in memory of Vladimir Horowitz, the Lev Vlassenko International Competition and the Villahermosa International Competition.
He has also won awards at the Chopin International Piano Competition in Hartford, Connecticut and the Kaufmann International Competition. She has performed in New York at the Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall and Steinway Hall. Other venues include shows in Italy, France, China and the Czech Republic. She starred in broadcasts at WQXR in New York City and From above. A prolific composer, he has written works for solo piano, four hands, strings and chamber music. She also enjoys writing and performing original songs with her sister.
For more information and tickets, see Bachauer’s website.