2022 Senior Contestants

Bai, Zehao (Nicholas) – 04/10/94; born in China, lives in Pittsford, NY
Born into a family of musicians, Zehao Bai began his journey with piano at three years old. After years of study, He made his debut concert at the age of 14. At the year of 2012, Zehao came to United States of America as a junior in high school and continued his piano study with Dr. Washington Garcia at Texas State University. After graduating from high school, Zehao continued studying piano under the tutelage of Dr. Marina Lomazov and Dr. Joseph Rackers and received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees. He is now pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts at the Eastman School of Music.  Zehao was featured as the rising keyboard artist of the Rising Artist series at Lander University, and the Rising Star soloist at Texas State International Piano Festival.  Zehao also won multiple prizes from competitions such as the Thousand Island International Piano Competition; Long Island International Piano Competition; MTNA Young Artist Division. During his career, he was also invited to perform with symphony orchestras, such as the Virtuosi Brunenses Symphony Orchestra, Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra, and Texas State Symphony Orchestra. At the summer of 2016, Zehao and Ke’er Wang together created the Miaomiao Piano Festival in Wuhai, China to be the best piano festival for pre-college young pianists of the area.  As a self-proclaimed technology and car enthusiast, Zehao enjoys working on his car and electronics when he is not working at his piano.

Katherine Benson – 12/11/93: Born in US, lives in Ann Arbor, MI
Katherine Benson has won top prizes in numerous international competitions, including the Walled City, Teresa Carreño, Kerikeri, Seattle, and Thousand Islands Competitions, and she is just one of four finalists in the 2022 Heida Hermanns International Music Competition. Katherine is also an avid chamber musician and is the artistic director of The Paramount Chamber Players, one of the premiere chamber ensembles of the Appalachian region, performing over a dozen concerts annually. She has performed across the USA and abroad, including in Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand, and has appeared on Radio New Zealand in addition to multiple appearances on Knoxville WUOT’s UT Concert Hall. She will release her first solo album with Blue Griffin Recording in early 2022, an evocative program of works by Ravel, Rautavaara, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff and Takemitsu.  She is currently a student at the University of Michigan with Arthur Greene, and studied previously with Chih-Long Hu, James Giles, and Nelita True. In addition to music, Katherine enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy novels, home baking, and writing short stories.

Boyle, Andrew – 09/27/93: Born in US, lives in Los Angeles, CA
Andrew Boyle is currently pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California with the internationally renowned conductor and pianist Jeffrey Kahane. He has won first prize in the Gail Newby Concerto Competition, Tucson Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Competition, and the Arizona State University Concerto Competition. He has also won second prize in the USC Concerto Competition and third prize in the Jacob Flier International Piano Competition in New York. In addition to solo playing he is an avid chamber musician and has performed numerous recitals with instrumentalists and vocalists. He is also passionate about improvisation: he has recorded a jazz album with vocalist Grace Roman and has also studied eighteenth century classical improvisation and partimenti with Tobias Cramm in Basel, Switzerland. His master’s degree is from Rice University with Robert Roux and his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University with Robert Hamilton.

David, Lior – 08/10/97: Born in US, lives in San Francisco, CA
Lior David has been playing piano since the age of 7. He has performed at numerous summer festivals including Aspen Music Festival, Gijon International Piano Festival in Gijon, Spain, Bowdoin International Music Festival, and Orford Music Academy. Notable wins include 1st Prize in the Massachusetts state round of the MTNA Competition in 2019. In 2020, he graduated from the Eastman School of Music and is currently a second year Master’s student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music studying with Jon Nakamatsu. Outside of piano, he enjoys cooking, reading, and going for walks.

Ho, Ji Yang (Nicholas) – 01/06/92:  Born in Singapore, lives in Cincinnati, OH

Hailed as a “gifted young artist”, Singaporean pianist-composer Nicholas Ho has made concerto appearances with various orchestras in Singapore and the United States, with works including the Prokofiev Third and the Rachmaninoff Third. Nicholas has also performed recitals in Asia and the United States. He was a Piano Fellow at the 2018 Manchester Music Festival. Holding degrees from Indiana University and CCPA, Nicholas is currently a doctoral student at CCM. His teachers include Tedd Joselson, Edward Auer, and Ran Dank. Amongst various accolades, he was awarded the Jury Special Prize at the 5th Asian Youth Music Competition, Second Prize at the 2018 YCA International Auditions, and Winner of the CCPA Concerto Competition. Nicholas is an Arabesque Records artist, having recently released his debut commercial recording. Huntley Dent on Fanfare proclaimed him as a pianist possessing a technique that is “powerful and fluent” and as an artist with a “poetic nature”.

Hopkins, Benjamin – 06-04-90:  Born in US, lives in Los Angeles, CA

Benjamin Hopkins has performed across Europe and North America, including recent debuts at the Festival de Luis Vega in Asturias, Spain and New York City’s  Merkin Hall. He recently graduated with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance from the University of British Columbia, where he was a member of the prestigious Public Scholars Initiative and was chosen to perform concertos with the UBC Symphony Orchestra in an unprecedented three consecutive seasons. He holds three degrees from the USC Thornton  School of Music, where the faculty twice chose him as the school’s Outstanding Graduate.  Hopkins is a two-time prize winner at the National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artist Auditions and won Grand Prize at the inaugural Silverman Piano Competition. Other honors  include first prizes at the Thousand Islands International Piano Competition, the Susan Torres  Award, and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Young Artists Auditions.

Karakulidi, Simon – 10/02/97:  Born in Russia, lives in New Haven, CT

Born in 1997 in Surgut, Siberia, pianist Simon Karakulidi was educated in the Russian piano tradition. He began studies with Prof. Mira Marchenko at the Central Musical School in Moscow in 2013. In 2016, he made the decision to relocate to Parkville, Missouri to work with Van Cliburn competition gold medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch. An aspiring polymath with interests ranging from politics to philosophy, he will be pursuing his masters degree at the Yale School of Music, a tuition free program at Yale University. Simon is strongly enthusiastic about North American contemporary music, and has given a number of performances of works by David Lang and Nico Muhly. He is especially concerned with the format of classical music concerts (if “classical music” still means anything today), and hopes to ignite interest in art music by making performances more interactive and accessible.  Most recently, Simon took the gold medal at the 2019 Wideman International Piano Competition and the third prize of the 2019 Olga Kern International Piano Competition. He is also a prizewinner of the First Vladimir Krainev Piano Competition in Moscow (Second Prize and two special awards), and the “Astana Piano Passion” Piano Competition (First Prize). In June 2018, Simon was awarded the Enlight Prize at the Art of Piano Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2019, he received First Prize at the Ann & Charles Eisemann International Young Artists Competition and the Grand Prize of the Naftzger Competition. In the summer of 2019, Simon was a laureate in the International Keyboard Institute & Festival Competition in New York City.


King, Adrian – 02/20/03:  Born in US, lives in Rochester, NY

Adrian King attends Eastman School of Music and is a student of Douglas Humpherys.  Previously, he studied with Dr. Peter Mack of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle and Dr. Dainius Vaicekonis of Seattle Pacific University.  Adrian has been a prize winner at many international competitions in both piano solo, concerto, and duet categories.  He was the winner of the 2019 Seattle International Piano Competition. Adrian received 1st prize at the 2018 Aloha International Piano Competition.  He was a National YoungArts winner in 2019, 2020, and 2021.  Adrian and his sister, Mya, received 2nd place in the 2016-17 National MTNA Competition in Baltimore, Senior Duet Division.  Adrian won the concerto competition at the 2017 Northern Lights Music Festival in Minnesota and performed Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto with the NLMF orchestra under conductor, Gavriel Heine. He has also performed concerti with orchestras in both Washington and Hawaii.

Lee, Kangeun – 05-22-95:  Born in South Korea, lives in Bloomington, IN

Pianist Kangeun Lee, a native of South Korea, is currently pursuing a Doctor of Music degree under the tutelage of Edward Auer, and she serves as an associate instructor of piano at the Jacobs School of Music. She made her international debut at Mozarthaus in Vienna, under the guidance of Paul Gulda. She continued having numerous performances in multiple cities, including Budapest, Shenyang, Bloomington, Suwon, Seongnam, Daegu, and Seoul. She completed her undergraduate studies at Seoul National University, where she was granted full scholarship with Eminence Scholarship and Merit-based Scholarship. She graduated with honors (summa cum laude) and was the recipient of the University President’s Award. Lee earned her master’s degree at the Jacobs School of Music, receiving John Winston Spanier Fellowship for two full years. Previously, she won prizes at the Korea Young Artist Music Competition, the Seoul National Scholarship Competition, and the Yeon Art National Music Competition. She was also invited to celebrate the inauguration of the United States ambassador in Korea held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Liu, Qiao – 11/20/90:  Born in China, lives in Kew Gardens, NY

Making her solo debut at the age twelve, Qiao studied at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in Liaoning province, China. She then pursued graduate studies in the United States at the Manhattan School of Music and the Mannes School of Music in New York. She is currently continuing her studies with Matti Raekallio in New York. She has participated in masterclasses given by such pianists as Solomon Mikowsky, Richard Goode, Boris Berman, Bruce Brubaker and Kirill Gerstein. She has won a number of prizes in International competitions in the Asian, US and Europe. She made her New York debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 2017.

Competition Prizes:
2001 Second Prize of Asian TOYAMA Cup Piano Competition
2002 Second Prize of the Ninth Xinghai Cup National Competition
2012 Second Prize of the Seventh Shenyin Cup Competition 2017 First Place of Rondo Young Artist Competition
2017 First Prize of Golden Classical Music Awards International Competition
2018 First Prize of North International Music Competition
2018 First Prize of IMKA International Music Competition
2018 First Prize of Muse International Music Competition
2018 Second Prize of Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition
2018 Third Prize of Pittsburgh International Piano Competition
2018 Third Prize of New York International Artists Competition
2019 Prix special Argent of Paris Music Competition
2019 Third Prize of Ise-Shima International Piano Competition
2019 Gold Prize of WPTA Singapore International Piano Competition

In fact, my life is very simple. I sometimes lose focus and get tired of studying. When this happens, I head to the gym because by working out, I still feel productive even though I’m not studying. I feel better about myself when I exercise regularly, which can boost my confidence and improve my self-esteem. Cooking also is my hobby, feeling relaxed when I am cooking. It is a kind of meditation for me.

Mamora, Jonathan – 04/27/95:  Born in US, lives in Rochester, NY
An Indonesian-American and native of Southern California, pianist and educator Jonathan Mamora strives to uplift and positively influence others using music as a means for service.  Jonathan’s performances have taken him throughout North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, and he is a prize-winner of several regional and international competitions. He was recently a featured artist for the LA Phil Affiliates in the Desert. He has previously performed in masterclasses by pianists as Jerome Lowenthal, Robert Levin, Antonio Pompa-Baldi, and Stanislav Ioudenitch. As a collaborator, Jonathan holds a graduate assistantship in accompanying at the Eastman School of Music and has received the Eastman Excellence in Accompanying Award. He also teaches music theory at Eastman, as well as piano for the Eastman Community Music School. Jonathan is currently pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts at the Eastman School of Music, studying with and serving as studio assistant for Douglas Humpherys. He received his Bachelor of Music from La Sierra University and his Master of Music from The Juilliard School. His previous teachers include Elvin Rodríguez and Hung-Kuan Chen.

Nguyen, Le Binh Anh – 12/13/96:  Born in Vietnam, lives in Cincinnati, OH

Le Binh Anh Nguyen is a Vietnamese Pianist. Known for his verve and sensitivity, Binh Anh’s artistry is inherited from his past and present teachers: Dr. Ran Dank (University of Cincinnati), Prof. Evelyne Brancart (Indiana University), and Dr. Thomas Hecht (National University of Singapore). With a strong passion for Music Pedagogy, Binh Anh has served as an Associate Instructor in Music Theory and Secondary Piano in Indiana University (2018-2021) and University of Cincinnati (since August, 2021). He is currently pursuing a DMA degree in Piano Performance at University of Cincinnati.


Qian, Anran – 08/28/95:  Born in US, lives in Boston, MA

Pianist Anran Qian is an adventurous musician who not only loves performing on the stage, but also enjoys connecting with different people whether it is through performing classical music, improvising, composing, or teaching. Her mission is to connect with people through music, and this has brought her to different countries around the world, including China, Japan, the Netherlands,  and the US.

Anran Qian was born into a musical family. Following her parents’ footsteps, she started to play the piano at a young age and completed her Bachelor and Masters’ degrees at The Juilliard School. She is currently completing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree of music at Boston University under the guidance of Tanya Gabrielian. Apart from performing, she is also highly interested in teaching, composing, and collaborating with different artistic disciplines.

 Rhoades, Jairus – 03/20/04:  Born US, lives in Mililani, HI

A senior at Punahou School, Jairus Rhoades has been studying piano privately under the tutelage of Ms. Joanna Zane Fan, and is a laureate of multiple local, national, and international competitions. Jairus has won first prizes in the Junior, Highschool, and Young Artist division of the Aloha International Piano Festival, first prize in the Division III Steinway piano competition, third prize in the Cooper International Piano Festival Competition, honorable mention in the International Institute for Young Musicians competition, second prize in the Bellagrande International Music Competition, and second prize in American Protege competition, debuting at Carnegie Hall. Along with being featured on NPR’s “From the Top!” with Christopher O’Riley Show 330, Jairus has played concerti with the University of Hawaii Orchestra and also enjoys playing chamber music as the pianist in the Vaught Piano Quintet and Chang Piano Trio.

Richardson, Christopher – 07/19/98:  Born in US, lives in Danville, CA

Christopher Richardson has received top prizes in numerous national & international piano competitions, including First Prize at the 2021 LA International Liszt Competition Budapest Division as well as First Prize and Best Chopin Prize at the 2016 MTNA National Competition. He has performed in many venues across the United States, including the 2000-seat Music Tent in Aspen, Carnegie Hall, Finney Chapel, and Benaroya Hall. He will be performing all-Liszt concerts in Budapest, London, and Washington D.C. in 2022.  Christopher graduated with honors at UC Berkeley, earning Bachelor’s degrees in Biology, Economics, and Music. He was also the blog writer for the Steinway Society of the Bay Area, where he gave his thoughts on various aspects of classical music and performance. Christopher currently is a graduate student at the Thornton School of Music at USC, studying under Jeffrey Kahane.


Ryser, Jansen – 06/14/94:  Born in Switzerland, lives in Mantagny, Switzerland

Jansen Ryser is a Swiss pianist. Winner of the Kiefer Hablitzel Göhner Music Prize 2019, he has extensively performed throughout Europe as well as the United State. Praised for his musicianship, his playing was described as « combining a natural pianism with a mature musical sensibility and poetic eloquence ». Invited by numerous festivals, he has performed as soloist and chamber music partner at the Verbier Festival, Gstaad Menuhin Festival, Lavaux Classic Festival, Plovdiv International Chamber Music Festival, Vienna Young Pianist.  Currently, he is studying with Claudio Martinez-Mehner at the Hochschule für Musik Basel. He previously studied with Matti Raekallio at the Juilliard School in New York thanks to the Theodora J. Nichols Piano Scholarship as well as in Geneva with Sylviane Deferne. He is a recipient of the 2017 Leenaards Foundation Scholarship and is supported by the Dénéréaz Foundation.  In his free time, he enjoys cooking for his family and friends.

 Shmukler, llya – 12-1-94:  Born in Russia, lives in Parkview, MO

Born in Moscow in 1994, Ilya began his musical education at the age of 5 and immediately revealed himself as an exceptional, creative, and enthusiastic young artist. He performed his first solo recital at 12, and made his orchestral debut at 14. Since then he has appeared with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Bayer Symphoniker Orchestra, Tambov Symphonic Orchestra, New Music Orchestra, and others. Ilya finished a Master’s degree in piano performance from the prestigious Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory with honors in 2021, under the guidance of Professor Elena Kuznetsova and Associate Professor Sergey Kuznetsov. Presently, Ilya studies with Professor Stanislav Ioudenitch at the International Center for Music at Park University in Parkville, Missouri. Speaking about his student, Professor Ioudenitch pointed out that “this young man is a great talent of a very high degree of expertise and professionalism. Moreover, he is extremely serious in his attitude toward his work and his career; his capacity for concentration and productive work is of the highest caliber.”  These words are confirmed by Ilya’s top prizes from various international piano competitions, such as: 1st Prize at the 2021 New York Virtuoso International Competition (New York City, New York); 2nd Prize at the 2021 Lewisville Lake Symphony International Competition for Piano (Lewisville, Texas); 1st Prize and Audience Award at the 3rd (2019) Shigeru Kawai International Piano Competition (Tokyo, Japan).  In addition, Ilya was awarded the 2021 Carnegie Weill Recital Hall Debut Audition prize, organized by Creative Classical Concert Management. His New York debut is scheduled for July 13, 2022; Ilya eager awaits the opportunity to entertain his audience with works by various composers from diverse genres.

Taggart, Emma – 08-03-02:  Born in US, lives in New York, NY

Emma Taggart is a 19-year-old classically trained pianist who is on her way to becoming a world renowned concert pianist.  She performs both as a solo artist and a member of the piano duo Taggart Squared–along with her brother, Jacob. She has been featured on Minnesota Public Radio’s Minnesota Varsity and National Public Radio’s From the Top, where she received the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award and a $10,000 scholarship.  She has taken master classes with legendary pianists, such as Anderson and Roe, Nelita True and Oxana Yablonskaya.  She has played with many orchestras, including the Milan Chamber Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of St. Petersburg, Russia, the Dakota Valley Orchestra, the Minnetonka Orchestra, the Golden Valley Orchestra, and the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra.  She has received top honors in the LaCrosse Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition and the YPSCA Concerto Competition, and she was recently awarded the Grand Prix of the St. Petersburg, Russia, Festival in Palace competition. Emma was also named the 2018-2019 Featured Artist of the Nicholson Brothers’ Classical Music Series at the Hanifl Center for the Performing Arts.  Emma is now pursuing her undergraduate degree in Piano Performance at the Mannes School of Music. She studies under Professor Simone Dinnerstein. Before studying with Dinnerstein, Emma spent 14 years with the renowned Dr. Reid Smith of Dellwood, Minnesota.

Tran, Eric – 05/03/91:  Born in US, lives in Madison, WI

Pianist-composer Eric Tran has performed in Italy, Korea, China, Canada and in over 20 US states. He has appeared in music festivals such as Piano Texas, Aspen, Art of the Piano, Gilmore and Chautauqua, both as a participant and as a guest artist. His principal studies were with pianists Sharon Mann, Thomas Schultz and Christopher Taylor, and with composers Jaroslaw Kapuscinski  and Laura Schwendinger. Eric is a graduate of Stanford University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the Mead Witter School of Music. During his studies, he was the winner of the concerto competitions of all three institutions, and was awarded the prestigious Robert M. Golden Medal for outstanding contributions to the arts. As a composer, he won the Pacific Musical Society Composition Prize, and his sets of children’s music have been programmed for over seven years on the syllabus of the US Open Music Competition. His music has been performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet and the Friction Quartet, and his debut album, Water, was supported by Stanford University’s Young Alumni Arts Grant.  He comprises one half of the notorious “Happy Dog Piano Duo” with his longtime friend and piano partner, Nathan Cheung. They won the 1st prize and the Fay and John Abild American Music Award at the Ellis Duo Piano Competition, hosted by the National Federation of Music Clubs, 1st prize at the Melvin Stecher and Norman Horowitz Two Piano Competition; and 1st prize at the Ohio International Duet and Duo Piano Competition. For over a decade they have performed originals and classics alike with a focus on bringing humor and joy to the classical music world.

 Yeo, Lywon – 05-26-90:  Born in South Korea, lives in Cincinnati, OH

She graduated from Yewon Arts School, Seoul Arts High school, and Yonsei University in Seoul in Korea with a scholarship. Afterwards she moved to Germany at Universität der Künste(UDK) Berlin, and Mozarteum Universität Salzburg in Austria with a scholarship. Currently, she is studying an Artist Diploma at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with a full-scholarship and with the opportunity of a graduate assistant.  She is the winner at the 7th Propiano International Piano Competition. She was also selected as a scholarship student by the Swiss International Scholarship Foundation “CLAVARTE”. She performed in Suwon, Seoul, Sejong in Korea, Berlin in Germany, Courchevel in Swiss, Salzburg in Austria. She founded International Piano Ensemble „Y.US“, she is an instructor at the Cincinnati Music Academy and a volunteer at the Cincinnati Animal Shelter. During studying abroad, she came to this day by working in food trucks, duty-free shops, tutoring, hostels, photographers, babysitters, and servers.