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By Mike Telin

yang_yike_webLast weekend, fifteen year-old Tony Yike Yang from Toronto played Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Jahja Ling on his way to winning the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition. As first-prize winner, Yang was awarded $10,000 and a full four-year scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. We spoke to him recently about his experience in the competition, his life as a young pianist, and his aspirations for the future.

Mike Telin: First, congratulations on winning the Cooper. What was it like to play with The Cleveland Orchestra?

Tony Yike Yang: It was so much fun. Read the rest of this entry »


by Daniel Hathaway


Out of an initial field of 28 competitors in the Thomas and Evon Cooper Oberlin International Piano Competition, three young pianists, having survived semi-final, concerto final and recital final rounds at the Oberlin Conservatory earlier in the week, won the opportunity to appear on the stage of Severance Hall on Friday evening, July 25 to play concertos with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra.

The impressive audience that turned out to hear Sae Yoon Chon, Zitong Wang and Tony Yike Yang in concertos by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky was full of young people — largely made up of friends, relatives and colleagues of the Cooper participants, no doubt. Palpable energy was in the air, and each of the three finalists was greeted with whoops and cheers both before and after they played. Read the rest of this entry »

Oberlin-Cooper-2014-LogoOberlin – July 23. Following the concerto round last evening, the judges announced the six finalists in the 2014 Cooper International Competition who will advance to the Recital Round on Wednesday evening, July 23 at 7:00 pm in Warner Concert Hall at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Following the program, the judges will announce the three contestants who will play concertos with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra on Friday evening at Severance Hall. The performance will be carried live on WCLV, 104.9 FM and, and a video stream will be available here.

Here is the Recital Finals program for Wednesday evening (performance order to be announced):

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Cleveland, OH, August 2, 2010

Cooper Competition Awards

Dean David Stull of the Oberlin Conservatory and donor Thomas Cooper present 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes to George Li, John Chen and Kate Liu (photo: Roger Mastroianni)

by Daniel Hathaway & Nicholas Jones

In the debut of the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition at the Oberlin Conservatory last week, first there were forty-three contestants, then after the first round, twenty-three. Eleven were chosen for the concerto with piano round, then six for the solo finals. On Friday evening, three young pianists, one 14 and two 16 years old, competed in the final round in Severance Hall with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra for several thousand dollars in prize money (they already had won four-year, full tuition scholarships to the Oberlin Conservatory). The top winner would go on to play engagements with professional orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai.

It must have been a heady week for the more than forty contestants, who ranged in age from 13 to 18, and who were as finely tuned up as young tennis players for this demanding week of elimination rounds, in this case in front of an international jury of distinguished judges.

Out of deference to the age and comparative inexperience of some of the younger competitors, we began our coverage of the Cooper Competition with the Tuesday concerto round, when eleven pianists made their first appearances on the Warner Hall stage at Oberlin as interactive soloists.

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Cleveland, OH, August 1, 2010

Reinberger Chamber Music Hall

Reinberger Hall at Severance Hall

by Daniel Hathaway

Sixteen young pianists who didn’t advance to the finals in the Cooper International Competition this week were invited by the jury to play one standout work in their repertory in Reinberger Chamber Hall at Severance Hall on Friday afternoon, July 30, for an audience of family, friends and the general public. In format, the event looked something like the periodic recitals everyone’s childhood piano teacher put together, but John Thompson’s Fourth Grade Book was nowhere to be seen; the repertory was world class and most of the playing was on the level you’d expect from the 18-30 crowd at an international contest.

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Cleveland, OH, July 31, 2010

The winners (l-r): George Li (first prize), John Chen (second prize), Kate Liu (third prize). Photo: Roger Mastroianni

The three winners of the 2010 Cooper International Piano Competition are:

First Place: George Li (14, Lexington, MA)

Second Place: John Chen (16, Leesburg, VA)

Third Place: Kate Liu (16, Chicago, IL)

The awards, announced by donor Thomas Cooper after the young pianists played concerti by Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall on Friday evening, include four-year, full tuition scholarships to The Oberlin Conservatory and cash prizes of $10,000, $6,000 and $3,000, respectively. Mr. Li will also play concerts with orchestras in Shanghai and Beijing.’s reports on the semifinalists’ concert in Reinberger Chamber Hall on Friday afternoon and the finals on Friday evening will be posted later this weekend.

Cleveland, OH, July 30, 2010

The order of performance for tonight’s finals with Jahja Ling and the Cleveland Orchestra:

George Li — Chopin’s Concerto No. 1

Kate Liu — Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3


John Chen — Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1

The concert will be broadcast live at 8:00 pm EDT over WCLV, 104.9 FM and streamed via the Internet at

Oberlin, OH, July 29, 2010

The finalists (l-r): George Li, John Chen, Kate Liu (photo: Roger Mastroianni)

Following the solo rounds in Warner Concert Hall at the Oberlin Conservatory on Wednesday evening, July 28, WCLV president Robert Conrad announced the audience favorite, 4th, 5th and 6th place winners and the three finalists in the 2010 Cooper International Piano Competition. Here is the list with prize money indicated:

Audience Favorite ($500)

Tristan Teo (13, Canada)

6th Place ($1,000)

Tristan Teo (13, Canada)

5th Place ($1,000)

Anna Han (14, Arizona, USA)

4th Place ($1,000)

Sahun Hong (16, Texas, USA)


The following contestants (listed here in alphabetical order) will play concertos in the finals with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra on Friday evening at 8 in Severance Hall in a concert to be broadcast live over WCLV, 104.9 FM (and streamed on the Internet):

John Chen (16, Virginia, USA) — Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1
George Li (14, Massachusetts, USA) — Chopin, Concerto No. 1
Kate Liu (16, Illinois, USA) — Prokofiev, Concerto No. 3

Tickets for the Severance Hall finals may be ordered through the box office at 216.231.1111.

Oberlin, OH, July 29, 2010

John Chen

Solo finalist John Chen takes a bow (photo: Roger Mastroianni)

by Daniel Hathaway

My first introduction to the 2010 Cooper Competitors was during the concerto rounds — mere 15 or 20 minute encounters with eleven young pianists playing single movements of their concerto repertory, which gave only a limited glimpse at their individual musical personalities.

Wednesday evening’s solo finals presented each of the six remaining competitors with a 30-minute opportunity to strut their pianistic stuff not only to the jury and the live audience in Warner Concert Hall at the Oberlin Conservatory, but to a wider audience listening in on WCLV, 104.9 FM or via the station’s Internet feed. The long evening started at 8:00 straight up, and the last note was played as midnight approached.

This particular trial by fire required a lot of mental strength as well as keyboard stamina. The program listed five or six pieces for each performer, but the judges would decide which excerpts or whole works would be played and in what order — and the competitors would receive their instructions only moments before taking the stage. Talk about the need to be prepared!

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Oberlin, OH, July 28, 2010

The Cooper International Piano Competition has released the following details about Wednesday evening’s solo finals round which begins at 8:00 pm EDT in Warner Concert Hall at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. The finals will be broadcast live over WCLV, 104.9 FM and streamed on the Internet from

The order in which each pianist will play was determined by a drawing of lots, and the judges have selected a 30-minute program for each pianist from his or her repertoire. However, each pianist will be told what pieces he or she is to play, and in what order, only moments before walking on stage. We also allow each pianist an opportunity to select the Steinway of his or her choice, so there will be a brief pause between the performances.

The contestants are listed in performance order.

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Oberlin, OH, July 27, 2010

by Daniel Hathaway

The plan was to advance ten young pianists into the concerto round of the Cooper Competition, but apparently the judges found the talent pool so deep that eleven players were actually scheduled into today’s pair of sessions in Warner Concert Hall at the Oberlin Conservatory. Good thing Warner Hall isn’t a cruise ship — it would have been listing seriously to the port side as nearly the whole audience of contestants, parents, friends and onlookers clustered on the keyboard side of the hall to get a good look at the twenty-two hands that would be performing today.

Afternoon Session

Considering only the five who performed during the 2:30 slot, there’s no lack of digital prowess among the 13-18 year old set. Concerto movements by Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Ravel, Mozart and Rachmaninoff received masterful performances by ten young performers with “orchestral” support ably supplied by second pianists James Howsmon, Yury Shadrin and Chien-Lin Lu. Read the rest of this entry »

Oberlin, OH, July 27, 2010

Eleven young pianists have advanced to the Concerto Round of the Cooper International Piano Competition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Today’s concerto round with piano accompaniment will begin at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm in Warner Concert Hall. will post reports following each session. Here is the schedule with approximate starting times:

2:30 – John Chen (16, Virginia, USA) – Tchaikovsky #1, first movement.
3:00 – George Li (14, Massachusetts, USA) – Chopin #1, first movement.
3:20 – Su Yeon Kim (16, Korea) – Ravel in G, first movement.
3:35 – Bolai Cao (13, China) – Mozart K. 466, first movement.
4:50 – Fantee Jones (16, California, USA) – Rachmaninoff #2, third movement.

7:30 – Leonardo Colafelice (14, Italy) – Rachmaninoff #3, first movement.
8:00 – Sahun Hong (16, Texas, USA) – Beethoven #3, third movement.
8:15 – Yon-Joon Yoon (17, Maryland, USA) – Tchaikovsky #1, first movement.
8:45 – Kate Liu (16, Illinois, USA) – Prokofiev #3, third movement.
9:00 – Tristan Teo (13, Canada) – Beethoven #3, third movement.
9:15 – Anna Han (14, Arizona, USA) – Rachmaninoff #3, first movement.

Oberlin, OH, July 26, 2010

Twenty-two young pianists will advance today to the second round of the Cooper International Piano Competition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Here is the roster in alphabetical order.

Bolai Cao (13, China)
John Chen (16, Virginia, USA)
Leonardo Colafelice (14, Italy)
Anna Han (14, Arizona, USA)
Sahun Hong (16, Texas, USA)
Xuesha Hu (17, China)
Fantee Jones (16, California, USA)
Paul Juhn (18, Illinois, USA)
Sun Hwa Kim (18, Korea)
Su Yeon Kim (16, Korea)
Connie Kim-Sheng (18, California, USA)
Jee Min Lee (13, Korea)
Seung-Hyun Lee (16, Korea)
George Li (14, Massachusetts, USA)
Hanbo Liu (18, New Jersey, USA)
Kate Liu (16, Illinois, USA)
Scott MacIsaac (18, Canada)
Tristan Teo (13, Canada)
Chelsea Wang (16, Iowa, USA)
Ming Xie (16, China)
Yon-Joon Yoon (17, Maryland, USA)
Fifi Zhang (17, Virginia, USA)

by Daniel Hathaway

Oberlin Winners

An earlier group of winners

This Thursday afternoon, more than forty young pianists from seven countries will arrive in Oberlin to compete in a new and much enhanced version of the Oberlin International Piano Competition. Launched in 1995 by Oberlin Conservatory piano professor Robert Shannon, that competition for 13-18 year old pianists continued annually through 2008, when Warner Concert Hall was closed for renovations.

Reborn in 2010 as the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition, the contest will now alternate each year between pianists and violinists, with pianists up in 2010 and violinists in 2011. Cash prizes of more than $20,000 and Oberlin scholarships will be distributed among the winners, and the first prize winner will have the opportunity to perform with professional orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai. And in another big leap forward for its inaugural year, the Competition has made arrangements for the three finalists to play their concertos in Severance Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra under Jahja Ling.

We spoke with Robert Shannon by phone in his office at the Oberlin Conservatory to ask how this all came about.

“Before 1995, we had had a summer piano festival that had no age requirements and no focus at all. You’d come and you’d take some lessons, and you’d go to a lecture or two. We had lawyers from San Francisco who had never played the piano before! We wanted to upgrade this, and establish an age group of 13-18 — which is of course the group of people we either want to get excited about Oberlin or recruit from. There are many youth competitions now, but in 1995 that wasn’t really true. We thought we could combine having a competition with more educational programs so people would come here for a about a week and nobody would really lose because they could all learn something while they were here. That’s always been my dream”.
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