David D. Dubois Piano Festival and Competition

Young at art: Youthful pianists display prodigious gifts at Dubois competition at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News No one landed a quadruple Lutz at the 2018 David D. Dubois Piano Competition Sunday. That wasn’t the only difference between the kind of athletic competition seen globally and that held in Kobacker Hall on the Bowling Green State University. There were no cheering throngs, just a handful of listeners. But then no one flopped. No gold medals are handed out. But the winners collect checks, and all participants, even those who applied but didn’t make the semifinals are eligible for BGSU scholarships. Collecting the $3,000 top prize, was 16-year-old Raymond Feng, of Rochester, NY. Isabelle Liau, 16, of Novi, Michigan, placed second collecting $2,000 and bettering on her third place performance in last year’s competition. Third, $1,000, went to 13-year-old Angelina Ning from Charlotte, North Carolina. To compete classically-trained pianists in grades 8 through 12 (age 18 or younger) must prepare a 20-30 minutes long program of music from the last 500 years or so, with music from at least three stylistic periods, Baroque through contemporary. One piece must be a Classical Era sonata – Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and their contemporaries. All must be memorized with the exception of pieces composed after 1945. Though most finalists played a contemporary piece, none took advantage of that exception. The only music visible was on the judges’ table in front Robert Satterlee, of the BGSU piano faculty, and the guest artists Ursula Oppens and Phillip Moll. Behind them sat Laura Melton, also of the piano faculty, who was the driving force behind bringing the event here, and continues to direct it. Robert Swinehart, who represents the Dubois Trust, said that staging the festival at BGSU was a wise decision. He attends every year, and every year, he said, the field of pianists improves. “This is a phenomenal event.” He was a close friend of David Dubois for 20 years, he said. Starting as a high school math teacher, Dubois applied his knowledge to management systems beyond education in books, speeches and consulting. He also loved music, and sang in the National Cathedral choir. He wanted his estate to benefit young musicians, Swinehart said. That took the form of the competition at BGSU as well as organ scholarship at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. “He would be a very happy…


Camaraderie is a reward for pianists at competitions, guest artist Ursula Oppens says

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Most of the 25 competitors in the David D. Dubois Piano Festival and Competition at Bowling Green State University this weekend will not have a spot in the winner’s circle. They won’t share in the monetary prizes, nor the recognition. That doesn’t mean, said guest artist and judge Ursula Oppens, that they won’t gain something. Certainly there’s the discipline and focus performing in such a high level competition brings. They also may very well find friendship. Oppens, who will be one of the judges in Sunday’s final round, said even as a young pianist growing up in New York City in the 1950s, she didn’t know many pianists. “Being a pianist is solitary.” When pianists do get together they can form close bonds. Just how close and enduring those bonds can be will be on display Saturday night when Oppens and childhood friend Phillip Moll, also a festival guest artist and judge, will perform music for two pianos. The Dubois competition begins Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall with a master class with the guest artists. It continues on Saturday with the semifinal round in which 25 pianists from around the country will perform, and concluding Sunday morning beginning at 8:30 a.m. with the final round. The Dubois attracts teenage pianists from around the country. The performance level is high, with the semifinalists boasting impressive resumes of triumphs in other competitions. They will be competing for awards of $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second, and $1,000 for third. Oppens said as a judge “mainly I just try to let go and see how exciting and wonderful I feel the music is.” She said that “winning gives a person a great deal of confidence. Not winning shouldn’t destroy it.” And the recognition that comes with victory helps when advancing in the musical world. Her former teacher Rosina Lhevinne said “she wants her students to do competitions so they will practice on Saturday night instead of going to the movies.” The competitions themselves, Oppens said, are social occasions. “This is a way to hang out and make friends.” Oppens and Moll met when they were both studying with Leonard Shure. They attended the music festival in Aspen, Colorado. Their friendship continued when he went to study at…


Artistry awarded at Dubois piano competition at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Pianist Chu-Fang Huang, the special guest artist at this weekend’s David D. Dubois Piano Festival and Competition, puts a lot of emphasis on telling a story through music. That was evident during her recital Saturday night when she talked at length before each piece about the stories and poems that inspired them, and then brought those stories to life in her playing. Chi Zhang, a 17-year-old from Lawrence, Kansas, won the competition. Asked which of the four on his program was his favorite, he cited Chopin’s Ballade No. 3. “It’s just so beautiful,” he said. “There are so many beautiful harmonies. It’s like a winding story, a story unfolding, so romantic, so much feeling, a lot of love.  There’s everything in it — storminess, happiness. It’s just beautiful.” The high school junior topped a field of 26 semifinalists over the weekend. In Saturday’s semifinal round, the field was winnowed to eight finalists, who performed in Kobacker Hall Sunday morning. As winner he was awarded $3,000. Yu-Lien The, who teaches piano at Bowling Green State University and judged both rounds this weekend, said “I was just amazed” by the competitors. “I was impressed. It was just a really high level. I don’t think I played like that.” She said she wanted to give every one of the finalists an award. BGSU faculty Robert Satterlee and Thomas Rosenkranz also judged, and Laura Melton coordinated the event which is sponsored by the David D. Dubois Trust. Huang said of the finalists: “They don’t sound like under 18 at all.” The judges were unanimous in selecting the top five with more discussion needed to then rank them, she said. She said she was “shocked” at the level of talent the Dubois festival draws. She had brought two of her own students with her to compete, one of whom made the finals, and said to expect to see more of her students in future years. At this level, competitions are “cruel,” she said. If a pianist makes the smallest “goof,” they are marked down and out of the running. The competition is open to pianists in grades 8 through 12, and attracts talent from around the world. Also winning awards were: Roger Shen, 17, Northbrook, Illinois, second place ($2,000); Isabelle Lian, 15, Novi, Michigan,…


Pianist Chu-Fang Huang has musical stories to tell

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When concert pianist Chu-Fang Huang listens to the finalists in the David Dubois Piano Festival and Competition Sunday morning, she wants the young musicians to tell her a story. “More important than making your fingers move faster or more brilliantly, you need understand what the composer has to say. Otherwise playing the piano would be like being a blacksmith, just hammering.” This epiphany ignited her passion for music. “I realized every piece of music is like a piece of literature. Every piece of music is like something by Shakespeare and Tolstoy. It’s just written in different language.” She arrived at this understanding when she was 17, and a student at the Curtis Institute. She’d been playing for 10 years at that point easily winning many competitions. But her technical mastery driven by a strong competitive streak was not enough. “If you want to crack the code, send the right kind of message, the right kind of emotions to your listener you must understand through the notes, the chords, the melody, what the composer is trying to say.” “I realized what a great world I’d gotten into, the great emotions and how affecting and touching those things can be,” Huang said in a recent telephone interview. All this will come to the fore when she performs in recital Saturday at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall. Tickets are $7 in advance at: https://itkt.choicecrm.net/templates/BGSU/index.php or by calling 419-372-8171. Her program will conclude with Maurice Ravel’s La Valse, a piece she performed in 2005 as winner of International Piano Competition and finalist in the Cliburn International Piano Competition. In the flamboyant waltz, originally written for orchestra, Ravel depicts the European aristocracy on the brink of World War I who “didn’t want to face the fact that something was coming. They wanted to dwell in their luxurious lives while shooting was already happening outside their window. It’s a huge sarcasm Ravel pulls off.” The Chopin sonata and ballade that she will play both speak to the composer’s love of his native Poland. The ballade is based on a Polish poem and his Second Sonata was written as Warsaw was falling to the Russian czar. The latter piece includes the famous funeral march. Huang will also perform two pieces by Haydn, a composer she…


Teen pianists selected to compete in Dubois Festival at BGSU (Update)

The David D. Dubois Piano Festival and Competition has selected 28 young pianists as semifinalists to compete Saturday, Feb. 11, with finals Sunday, Feb. 12 at Bowling Green State University’s Moore Musical Arts Center. All events will take place in Bryan Recital Hall. The pianists will compete for a top prize of $3,000, with $2,000 for second and $1,000 for first. The festival’s guest artist will be pianist Chu-Fang Huang. Huang will present a master class Friday from 2:30–4:30 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall and she will perform a solo recital Saturday at 8 p.m.  Contact 419-372-8171,  or online at http://www.bgsu.edu/the-arts.html for tickets. She will also judge the finals on Sunday. The teenage pianists come from 10 states and Ontario. The semifinalists were selected based on a video recording submitted to the festival. The pianists prepare a program of 20 to 30 minutes in length that includes selections from at least three of four style periods – Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Contemporary. One movement from a Classical sonata is required. All works must be memorized with the exception of those written after 1945. The semifinals will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall in the Moore Musical Arts Center on campus. Those selected as finalists will perform Sunday beginning at 8:30 a.m. Recipient of a 2011 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Huang burst onto the music scene as a finalist in the 2005 Van Cliburn Piano Competition, and as First Prize Winner of the Cleveland Piano Competition that same year.  In 2006, she won First Prize in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and made critically acclaimed debuts at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall and at the Kennedy Center in the Young Concert Artists Series. Huang has performed in Canada on the Vancouver Recital Society Series, in Australia with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, in China with the Sichuan Symphony Orchestra and the China, Shenzhen, and Liaoning Philharmonic Orchestras, at the famed Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Ruhr Piano Festival in Germany, the Mustafa Kemal Center in Istanbul, and at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. After early studies at the Shenyang Music Conservatory, Huang continued her studies at the Idyllwild Arts Academy in California, where she studied with Laura Melton, now on the BGSU music faculty.  Subsequently, she earned her Bachelor’s degree…


Teen pianist Eric Lin rises to the top of Dubois field

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In a field called the best ever, Eric Lin, a 15-year-old from Falls Church, Virginia, easily came out on top of the David D. Dubois Piano Competition Sunday at Bowling Green State University. Internationally known pianist Spencer Myer, the guest artist and juror, praised the maturity of Lin’s work. “It was extremely grown up playing,” Myer said. “You can tell he’s a serious thinker. Lin was also “the most technically refined,” he said. “The technical refinement contributes to how easily he can express himself.” All the judges, Myer said, were in agreement that Lin merited the top prize. That top prize carries a cash award of $3,000. Other prize winners selected by Myer and fellow jurors, guest judge James Giles, of Northwestern University, and BGSU faculty member Robert Satterlee, were: • Heather Gu, Troy, Michigan, second prize, $2,000. • Shuheng Zhang, Canton, Michigan, third prize, $1,000. • Henry Tang, Brooklyn, NY, honorable mention. Lin said he came to the Dubois competition on the advice of a couple older friends who have competed in the event. “They said it was an excellent experience.” That proved to be the case, Lin said. “A lot of competitions are very serious, here it’s very relaxed. You can really just express yourself here.” Myer noted that as well. “There seems to be a very collegial atmosphere.” Lin said he and his teacher, Marjorie Lee, work together selecting pieces. She will choose pieces for him to play, and he decides whether he likes them or not. This year, he said, he had more input into the process. Together they strive to have a broad stylistic range in their repertoire. At the Dubois Lin performed Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor, as his required Classical Era sonata, and Frederic Chopin’s Scherzo No.3 as well as two 20th century works, a Bela Bartok etude and, Lin’s favorite of the program, a movement from Samuel Barber’s Sonata in E-flat Major. Lin loves music because it can reach across borders. “It’s very powerful, sometimes even more powerful than words. You can communicate with all cultures, all cultures have music. If you do it right it can reach into everyone’s soul.” He’s devoted to classical music. Though he may sometimes play a pop tune, he finds that music “lacks depth.” A…


Dubois finalists named; piano competition starts early Sunday

Eleven finalists have been named in the David Dubois Piano Competition. The final round begins at 8:30 a.m. Sunday in Kobacker Hall on campus. The winners will be announced at 12:30 p.m. The finalists are: Maggie Ma Laylo Rikhsieva Henry Tang Heather Gu Eric Lin Ailun Zheng Shuheng Zhang Yung-Yi Chen Minyi Zhang Isabelle Lian Catherina Lu