Cleveland International Piano Competition Contestants
We are thrilled to welcome these 26 incredible pianists to compete in our Cleveland International Piano Competition!PROGRAM BOOK
We are thrilled to welcome these 26 incredible pianists to compete in our Cleveland International Piano Competition!PROGRAM BOOK
*Flags presented above represent the submitted citizenship information of our contestants.
Formed in 1937, the CSO has celebrated 85 years serving the community of Stark County and beyond. Giving its first concert on February 16, 1938 under the direction of Richard Oppenheim the CSO has boasted world-class talent under the direction of many Cleveland Orchestra Assistant Conductors followed by the appointment of long-time Music Director Gerhardt Zimmermann in 1980. Diversity, equity, and inclusion lead the artistic planning process as all MasterWorks programs contain at least one work on each concert by composers undiscovered, under-represented, and up-and-coming, and the Orchestrating Change podcast, which looks at the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion in classical music and how to create actionable change. Supporting local organizations and talent is important through collaborations such as the Divergent Sound Series, which features local bands paired with musicians from the orchestra performing all original music.
Educational programming serves young audiences through free Young People’s Concerts, SymphonyLand, and Kinder Concerts each year. The Canton Youth Symphonies programs educate young musicians from over six surrounding counties and the Lighthouse Ministries Strings Program provides string training for free to students in southeast Canton. The Composer Fellowship program commissions a new work to be performed by the Advanced Youth Orchestra and the Artist in Residence Program identifies a local artist or group to create a classical music-related project.
Now completing its 85th Season, the Canton Symphony is a fully professional ensemble, and all of its members are members of the American Federation of Musicians. Their wages and working conditions are governed by a contract negotiated with Local 111 of the American Federation of Musicians.
Steven Byess is a dynamic and passionate conductor, hailed by critics as “masterful and brilliant,” “creating the epitome of instrumental elegance,” and capturing “the full spirit and vitality of the score perfectly.” Recognized for his musical versatility, multi-faceted presence on the podium, and passion for music education, he is devoted to promoting a life-long love and enthusiasm for music and the arts.
Steven is the music director of the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra (Oregon), the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, and the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. He conducted the U.S. premiere of Russian violinist Alexander Markov’s Rock Concerto at Carnegie Hall in New York, and was selected by Walt Disney World Entertainment to conduct the 2000 NFL E*TRADE Super Bowl Halftime show, where he performed for a television audience of 88 million fans.
As a passionate advocate for the arts, Steven is sought after for his speeches on the arts, music, and education, and has organized collaborations with numerous choruses, chamber music ensembles, and festivals. He wrote and co-directed a PBS presentation, Count On It!, designed to connect music and mathematics for children grades K-3. Since 2013, he has shared this passion with over 80,000 children around the country as a conductor of the Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute Link Up orchestral education concerts.
A prolific conductor of opera from grand to contemporary, his performances include Puccini’s La Bohème and a critically acclaimed production of Robert Ward’s The Crucible at the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv, Israel; Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with Greensboro Opera; Bizet’s Carmen with Emerald City Opera (Colorado); Copland’s The Tender Land, Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance, and a collaboration with composer Ricky Ian Gordon on his opera “27” with Intermountain Opera (Montana); and Weill’s Street Scene and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance with the Eastman School of Music Opera Theatre. Steven has been a guest conductor at the Pine Mountain Music Festival in Michigan for their productions of Le tragédie de Carmen (Bizet/Brook), a highly acclaimed production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, collaborating with the composer’s daughter Jamie Bernstein, and Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.
Steven is the former associate music director of the Ohio Light Opera where he conducted over 80 productions and 21 commercial recordings, including repertoire ranging from well- to little-known operas and operettas to blockbuster classic American musical theater works.
In addition to over 60 symphonic performances in the 2022-2023 season, Steven will conduct ballet productions of The Nutcracker, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, and Appalachian Spring.
Taiwanese-American violinist Yun-Ting Lee joined the second violin section of The Cleveland Orchestra in 2013. He completed his Bachelor and Master degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where his principal teachers were David Cerone, William Preucil, and David Updegraff. He has also studied with Dr. Phyllis Skoldberg and Ming-De Zhang.
Yun-Ting has appeared as soloist with Spoleto Festival USA, Music Academy of the West, Cleveland Institute of Music, National Repertory, and Phoenix Symphony orchestras. A dedicated chamber musician, Mr. Lee received the Dr. Bennett Levine Memorial Award in Chamber Music from CIM. Yun-Ting has collaborated with Orion Weiss, Lyrica Baroque Ensemble, members of the Juilliard, Cavani, Verona, and Tokyo String Quartets.
Yun-Ting has performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He is an alumnus of the New York String Orchestra Seminar, the Holland International Music Sessions, Encore School for Strings, and the Pacific Music Festival.
Violinist Jessica Lee has built a multi-faceted career as a soloist, chamber musician, and now as Assistant Concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra since 2016. She was the Grand Prize Winner of the 2005 Concert Artists Guild International Competition and has been hailed as “a soloist which one should make a special effort to hear, wherever she plays”. Her international appearances include solo performances with the Plzen Philharmonic, Gangnam Symphony, Malaysia Festival Orchestra, and at the Rudolfinum in Prague. At home, she has appeared with orchestras such as the Houston, Grand Rapids, and Spokane symphonies.
Jessica has performed in recitails at venues including Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Ravinia “Rising Stars”, the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, and the Kennedy Center.
A long-time member of the Johannes Quartet as well as of the The Bowers Program (formerly the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Two), Jessica has also toured frequently with ‘Musicians from Marlboro’, including appearances at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston’s Gardner Museum, and with the Guarneri Quartet in their farewell season. Her chamber music festival appearances include Bridgehampton, Santa Fe, Seoul Spring, Caramoor, Olympic, and Music@Menlo. She also put together a six- video chamber music series during the pandemic which was a collaboration between the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Clinic to bring chamber music from iconic spaces in Cleveland to the greater Cleveland community.
Jessica has always had a passion for teaching and has served on the faculties of Vassar College and Oberlin College, and now is on violin faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She was accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music at age fourteen following studies with Weigang Li, and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree under Robert Mann and Ida Kavafian. She completed her studies for a Master’s Degree at the Juilliard School.
American cellist Dane Johansen performs throughout the world as a chamber musician and soloist and as a member of The Cleveland Orchestra. Praised for his “brave virtuosity” and “staggering aplomb” (The New York Times, New York Magazine), Dane made his debut under James Levine performing Elliott Carter’s Cello Concerto at Lincoln Center’s celebration of the composer’s centennial. Dane has performed extensively as an Artist of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and has appeared in recital at Carnegie Hall as the first winner of the Leo Ruiz Memorial Award.
More recent engagements include performances of Walton’s Cello Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and performances with the Jerusalem Symphony and Houston Symphony. Dane walked 600 miles of the famed Camino de Santiago with his cello on his back, performing Bach’s Cello Suites in thirty-six concerts along the route. His experience is the subject of the documentary film, Strangers on the Earth, and his recording of Bach’s Cello Suites will be released in 2023.
Prior to joining The Cleveland Orchestra, Dane was a member of the Escher String Quartet, a recipient of the Avery Fischer Career Grant, and a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. He studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Conservatoire National Superieur de Paris and the Juilliard School where he received the Artist Diploma.
A native of Calgary, Canada, Martha Baldwin has been a member of the cello section of The Cleveland Orchestra since 2001. Martha is a graduate of Rice University where she studied with Desmond Hoebig, and the Cleveland Institute of Music where she was a student of Stephen Geber. She has also spent time studying with Harvey Shapiro, Aldo Parisot, and Paul Katz. Martha has been broadcast nationally on NPR and CBC radio and has appeared as a soloist with a number of orchestras including the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Columbia Symphony, Canton Symphony, and National Repertory Orchestra.
A passionate educator, Martha serves as an artist/educator for The Cleveland Orchestra where she helps create programs and concert experiences for students and families of all ages. She was a long time member of the preparatory string faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music where she served as String Department Chair for 5 years. Her students have been accepted to top conservatories and music programs including Curtis, The Juilliard School, Eastman, McGill University, Northwestern University, New England Conservatory, Rice University, Tanglewood, and the Aspen School of Music.
She is regularly invited to teach in Canada and the U.S. at conservatories and summer festivals such as the C.I.M.
International Academy, Mount Royal University Conservatory of Music, and the Cincinnati Young Artists at the University of Cincinnati College/Conservatory. Martha plays on a cello by Eugene Holtier of North Ridgeville, OH.
Bill Nichols performing on double bass is a product of the Tri-C jazz studies program, completing his studies at Bowling Green State University. Bill performs locally across northeast Ohio and has shared the stage with notable musicians including Joe Lovano, Ernie Krivda, Benny Golson, Stanley Cowell and Dan Wall.
19-year-old violinist Maude Cloutier recently graduated with the coveted Artist Certificate diploma studying with Jaime Laredo and Malcolm Lowe as a full scholarship student at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Passionate about contemporary music, she premiered nearly half a dozen new works this past season, has played in CIM’s New Music Ensemble, and also had a work of her own premiered at CIM in 2022. She has served as concertmaster of the CIM Orchestra, plays in Case Western Reserve University’s Baroque Chamber Orchestra, and has completed four semesters in the Advanced Piano Trio program at CIM. This fall, she begins her bachelor’s degree at CIM under the tutelage of Ilya and Olga Kaler. For more information and upcoming concerts, please visit www.maudecloutier.com.
A professional vocalist for over thirty plus years. She revels in the styles of jazz, R&B and pop. She has toured throughout the United States and Canada performing in top clubs and concert halls and has opened for the likes of Mel Torme, Joan Rivers, Harry Belafonte and David "Fathead" Newman. Evelyn even performed for the First Lady Rosalyn Carter, Oprah Winfrey and General Colin Powell. In 2008 she was given the Jazz Legend Award from Tri-C Community College. She also studied under Dr. Howard Tucker from Oberlin.
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, pianist & organist, Dave Thomas, was an original member of the R&B group, “Sweet Thunder”. He has also performed with numerous artists including the late James Cleveland, Dizzie Gillespie, Albert Ayler, Jean Carre, David Ruffin, and Grover Washington. He earned his undergraduate and graduate Music degrees from Cleveland State, Cleveland Institute of Music, Case Western Reserve University, and postgraduate work at the Royal Holloway College in London, England. He is also a gifted educator, having worked at The Cleveland School of the Arts, Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State University, and Case Western Reserve University. He is the co-author of a book entitled, “A Child’s First Book of Spirituals,” which is the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award.
Jonathan has been performing as a jazz pianist and vocalist in his hometown of Cleveland for a decade, with a background of classical training from a young age. He became interested in jazz while pursuing a graphic design degree in St. Augustine, Florida, and began honing his self-taught jazz technique night after night at a local piano bar. He went on to study remotely with NYC jazz piano giant Dave Frank. Jonathan has performed with numerous ensembles at Northeast Ohio’s jazz clubs and for private events, and he can be heard playing regularly at restaurants including Hyde Park, Pier W, and Northstar Grill. Jonathan’s tenor vocal stylings are often likened to Chet Baker or Harry Connick Jr., paired with classic straight-ahead jazz piano playing inspired by Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Johnny Costa, Marian McPartland, Lennie Tristano, Hank Jones, and others.
Originally from Calgary, AB, Canada, Allison Hillier began studying the piano with Colleen Athparia at a young age, and first fell in love with the expressivity of the instrument. Now based in Cleveland, Ohio, she recently graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music with a Masters in Piano Performance with a concentration in Piano Pedagogy. Allison also holds a Bachelor in Piano Performance with a minor in Piano Pedagogy and concentration in Cognitive Science from Oberlin Conservatory and College. A passionate teacher who seeks to help her students discover the joy and fulfillment that music-making brings to everyday life, Allison was awarded the David Statler Walker Award in Music Education for her contributions to the field.
Nikolay Pushkarev was born in Kiev, Ukraine, into a family of musicians. He started his piano education at the age of 7. He has been awarded at piano competitions around the world and has participated in the concert tours in Europe, Canada and the USA in the squad of Kremerata Baltica Chamber Orchestra. Nikolay has been studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music under the guidance of Prof. Sergei Babayan since 2016, earning both his bachelor's and master's degrees.
A Young Steinway Artist, the Chinese pianist Hechengzi Li (Chengzi), was featured on the cover of the World of Music magazine and described as “The rising star, the genuine and passionate storyteller through music.” Beginning her piano studies at the age of two, Chengzi was the grand prize winner of the toddler-group of Liu Shikun International Piano Competition at the age of three. Chengzi was introduced as a music prodigy on the cover of Eastern Airline Magazine when she was only five years old. She released her first solo album performing the works of Scriabin, Stravinsky, and Chopin, released by STARSING Media Group in 2019. Chengzi is currently studying at Cleveland Institute of Music under Sergei Babayan.