Sunday, June 12, 2016



Pianist Aristo Sham, age 20, a native of Hong Kong and student preparing for joint degrees at Harvard University and at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studies with Victor Rosenbaum, was named the first place prize winner of $12,000 in the PianoArts 2016 Biennial North American Piano Competition on June 8, 2016. During the competition’s final round, Mr. Sham performed Maurice Ravel’s Concerto in G major with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under the baton of PianoArts Music Director Andrews Sill. He also won the Audience Communication Award of $500 and the Best Performance of a Composition by Johann Sebastian Bach of $2,000. To be considered for these prizes, Mr. Sham performed two 45-minute recitals– a solo recital followed by an ensemble recital that included a duo with Scott Tisdel, Associate Principal Cellist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

During his elementary and secondary school years, Artisto Sham attended Harrow School in the United Kingdom. While there, he had the opportunity to perform, on several occasions, for the Royal family and was featured in the documentary, The World’s Greatest Musical Prodigies, broadcast in the UK on Channel 4. He has won several international competitions and has performed in the United Kingdom, China, Portugal, Argentina, Slovenia, Morocco, and throughout the United States.


The second place prize of $6,000 was awarded to Angie Zhang, age 20, from Princeton, New Jersey. Ms. Zhang studies with Professor Yoheved Kaplinsky at The Juilliard School. She also won the prize for the Best Performance of a Violin or Cello Duo of $500.


The third place prize of $4,000 went to John Schindler, age 17, from Hartland, Wisconsin, a student of Alan Chow at the Music Institute of Chicago. He also won the Wisconsin Contestant Award of $750 and another prize for the Best Performance of a Violin or Cello Duo of $500.

Semifinalist Linda Ruan, age 18, a native of Surrey, British Columbia, and student of James Anagnoson at the Glenn Gould School in Toronto, won $500 for the Best Performance of an America Work, and the Junior Jury Prize of $300.

Evelyn Mo, age 17, from Oak Hill, Virginia, a student with John O’Conor, was awarded a scholarship, valued at $1,500, to attend the 2017 International Keyboard Institute and Festival in New York City. Recipients of music from Hal Leonard Company were presented to Evelyn Mo, Linda Ruan, and Seho Young, age 18, a student of Francine Kay at Princeton University, from Dedham, Massachusetts.

Each semifinalist also was awarded $1,000 as a Listener’s Appreciation Gift. Semifinalists were JeongMin Kim, age 18, a student of Yoheved Kaplinsky at The Juilliard School from Corona, New York; Yuan Liu, age 19, a student with John Owings at Texas Christian University, from Taiyuan City, China; Evelyn Mo from Oak Hill, Virginia; Linda Ruan from Surrey, British Columbia; Harvey Zhi Yiang Wu, age 20, a student at Columbia University who studies piano with Martin Canin at The Juilliard School, from Beijing, China; and Seho Young from Dedham, Massachusetts.

Monday, June 6, 2016

What Sets the PianoArts North American Competition Apart from the Rest?

PianoArts is known as a "competition with a difference." Founder Sue Medford shares in the program booklet:

From the beginning, we built into the competition a strong collaborative program with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra musicians. Another unique initiative was the requirement that competitors speak about their music, deepening the musical experience and, ultimately, building audiences for classical music. 

The "behind-the-scenes" learning experiences brought PianoArts its international recognition.

Catherine Kautsky coaches semifinalists on speaking about music.

Gretta Assaly coaches the semifinalists on mental preparation for a performance.

Jill Zager coaches the semifinalists on preparing to perform for an audience.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Pallavi Mahidhara Sets the Stage for the 2016 Competition

Friday night was a beautiful night in Milwaukee. As the sun began to set and the gentle breeze from the lake caressed the historic Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Sue Medford, PianoArts Founder, welcomed Ms. Mahidhara to the stage in the breathtaking Helen Bader Recital Hall.

Sue Medford challenged the audience "when you leave, you will feel like music changed your life." As she continued, she shared that she has known Ms. Mahidhara since she was 10 years old and that "through music, you make connections for the rest of your life." She also introduced the three members of the jury:

Ms. Mahidhara, splendidly dressed in a beautiful gown made from her mother's sari, began the recital with Chaconne in D minor from Violin Partita No. 2. Playing only with her left hand, she embodied the music. She continued with Maurice Ravel's "Night Moths", "Sad Birds", "A Boat on the Ocean", "Morning Song of the Jester" and "The Valley of the Bells". The deep connection with the music was displayed in the emotion and intensity in which she played. Her fingers danced and fluttered over the keys just as the moths flutter in the night sky.

Ms. Mahidhara finished the evening with Grandes Etudes de Paganini, S. 141, which are a series of six etudes for the piano by composer Franz Liszt. I watched as the 2016 semifinalists were captivated by her astounding technique as her dazzling performance and artistic versatility set the stage for the 2016 competition!