In years when the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation doesn’t host the finals in Salt Lake City for its rotating schedule of competitions, June becomes Piano Festival Month, according to Kary Billings, the foundation’s executive director.
This year’s event (June 22-25) will feature six young pianists aged 14-16 who have been taking lessons for eight to eleven years. But they have already amassed impressive competition and performing portfolios in and out of the US. You will take part in a series of masterclasses led by guest artists as well as Douglas Humpherys, who won the first international Bachauer competition and is currently artistic director.
In addition to the free and publicly accessible master classes that take place during the day, there are three programs with the guest artists on two evenings (June 23 and 24) and the festival concludes with a performance with all six young pianists on June 25. The evening concert on June 23rd will feature Slutsky, while the evening concert on June 24th will feature Fantee Jones. The festival will open on June 22nd with a reception at 7pm where the artists and students will meet and greet guests. All events take place at the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts, with masterclasses and concerts at the Jeanné Wagner Theater.
Billings says the students are “extraordinarily good” in every way. Humpherys adds that the masterclasses are great opportunities for listeners, who often ask questions about the background to the performance and practice. Some of the most popular questions are how the young performers master the art of memorizing such complex scores. The interactive dynamic is instructive as all six students will participate in each master class. In the master class, students respond “very quickly” to suggestions that hone their musicianship and technique, says Humpherys, adding that they show “real improvements” as they climb the next mountain peak in their performance skills. He explains that the masterclass is also a great way to break down the proverbial fourth wall on stage, encouraging both musicians and the audience to communicate in a more relaxed manner. Master classes help young musicians cultivate their stage presence.
The guest artists are well known in the Bachauer family. With a professional performing career that began more than 40 years ago, Boris Slutsky appeared on the international music scene when he won first prize at the 1981 William Kapell International (University of Maryland) Piano Competition, as well as all major prizes, including the Audience Prize and the Wilhelm Backhaus Prize. His other achievements include first prizes at the Kosciuszko Chopin Competition and the San Antonio International Keyboard Competition, as well as major prizes at the International Bach Competition in Memory of Glenn Gould, Gina Bachauer, Busoni, Rina Sala Gallo and Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Competitions. Born in Moscow, he is a visiting professor of piano at the Yale School of Music.
Fantee Jonesa Taiwanese-American pianist and violinist living in Roseville, California, gave her first solo concert at the age of seven and made her concert debut Mozart’s Piano Concerto A major KV 488 at the age of ten. She was a semi-finalist at the 2020 National Chopin Piano Competition, winner of the 2019 Eastman School Concerto Competition, finalist at the 2018 Serge and Olga Koussevitzky Young Artist Awards, honoree at the 2018 Los Angeles International Piano Competition, and winner of the PianoTexas International Young Artists Concerto Competition, among others . Jones is a triple threat as a musician with a piano, violin and flute. Most recently, she received the Excellence in Accompanying Award from 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 her PhD in Musicology in Piano Playing and Literature with a minor in Piano Pedagogy.
Students selected for the festival include:
Grace Feng, 15, who studies with Ilana Vered and Carol Chuang, has won prizes in numerous piano competitions, including first prize in the MTAC Northern California Piano Solo and Concerto Competition, the CAPMT Honors Competition State Final, and the CAPMT Concerto Competition State Final. She was a Grand Prize winner at the 2020 Auburn Symphony Young Artists Competition and a winner of the 2021-22 MTNA California Piano Competition. Internationally, she received second prize at the Harmonium OnlinePlus International Piano Competition and a scholarship award at the 2021 San Jose International Piano Competition. She has performed with the Folsom Lake College Youth Chamber Orchestra, the Florence Conservatory Orchestra at Music Fest Perugia in Italy, and the Auburn Symphony.
Matthew Liu, 14, has been studying piano for eight years and is a student of Professor Jack Winerock at the University of Kansas. He recently 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 competitor in the 2021 Gina Bachauer International Junior Piano Competition. He has performed at the Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, the Ward Recital Hall at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC, and the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City on. He has performed concerts with the Midwestern Chamber Orchestra, the Topeka Symphony, and the Kansas City Symphony.
Yinghan Wang, 15, began taking piano lessons at the age of five and studies with Ching-Yun Hu, whom Bachauer audiences may remember from his spectacular All Liszt program in March at the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts. She has won prizes at many competitions, including first prizes at the 2015 Singapore International Junior Competition, 2015 Hong Kong International Junior Piano Competition and 2013 Suzhou Jianwu Cup Junior Piano Competition. She also won second prize at the American Chopin International Junior Competition in Hartford Connecticut and third prize at the 2020 Philadelphia International Piano Competition. Other performances include a Mozart concerto with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Orchestra and a broadcast on Philadelphia’s WRTI Classical Radio.
Elsie Lu, 16, began taking piano lessons from Rada Bukhman at the age of five and is a student of Dr. Sasha Starcevich. Lu won first prize at the 2021 Canimex Canadian Music Competition and platinum at the 2022 Grand Metropolitan International Music Competition. She was a gold medalist at the US Northwest Chopin Festival, the Seattle Pacific NW Piano Competition, and the Steinway Canada Young Artist Competition. She has performed concerts with various orchestras including the Bruensis Virtuosi, the Orchestra of MusicFest Perugia and the Bellevue Symphony. She is also a published poet with works in intuitionand her pictures were published in the music collection book The Magic Connection.
Nathaniel Zhang, 15, began taking piano lessons at the age of five and is currently studying with Dr. Sasha Starcevich. Zhang won first prizes at the 2018-2019 National MTNA Junior Competition and the 2019 Virginia Waring International Junior Competition. He received second prize at the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition, fifth prize at the International Piano-E Junior Competition, and second prize at the San Jose International Piano Competition. He has given concerts with the Florence Conservatory Orchestra in Perugia, Italy and the Philharmonia Northwest. In the 2022-23 season he will perform with the Seattle and Auburn Symphonies. Nathaniel also enjoys playing chamber music and is a regular performer at the Rising Stars of Chamber Music concerts.
Philina Zhang, 15, began taking piano lessons at the age of three and is currently studying with Irina Morozova at the Special Music School in New York City. She has won numerous prizes at international piano competitions, including first prizes at the Thirteenth International Piano Competition in memory of Vladimir Horowitz, the International Lev Vlassenko Competition and the Villahermosa International Competition.
She has also won prizes at the Chopin International Piano Competition in Hartford Connecticut and the Kaufmann International Competition. In New York City, she has performed at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall and Steinway Hall. Other venues include performances in Italy, France, China and the Czech Republic. She has been featured in broadcasts at WQXR in New York City and From above. A prolific composer, she has written works for solo piano, four hands, strings and chamber music. She also enjoys writing and performing original songs with her sister.
More information and tickets can be found on the Bachauer website.