Competition Judges & Awards Show Host

2020 Judges

Carlos Izcaray Elizabeth Pridgen Richard Roberts
Carlos Izcaray
Music Director, Alabama Symphony Orchestra
& American Youth Symphony
Elizabeth Pridgen
Piano
Artistic Director, Atlanta Chamber Players
Richard Roberts
Violin
Assistant Professor of violin, McGill University

2020 Awards Show Host

Alpin Hong

Whirlwind American tours and performances across the globe have earned pianist Alpin Hong the reputation as a modern day Pied Piper. From Walt Disney Hall to the White House, his combination of stunning technique, emotional range, and rare humor continues to bring audiences young and old to their feet. Rooted in extensive classical training and a background in extreme sports, martial arts, and video games, Mr. Hong is a creative force unmatched in his vitality and charisma. The New York Times called him a pianistic firebrand in a review of his standing-room only New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. The Idaho Statesman said, “Hong cut a magnetic physical presence and charmed the audience with engaging, powerful movements that were fun to watch. Throughout the piece he and the orchestra showed a wonderful give and take.” The Santa Barbara News Press hailed him as “a tour de force. Mr. Hong evoked a kind of Beatlemania when he came on stage. What a showman! What a musician!” His ability to captivate young audiences prompted the Ocala Star-Banner to call him “Classical for the iGeneration”.

Recent performance highlights include the world premiere of his collaboration with The Flying Carpet Theater, Chasing Chopin. A daring mashup of autobiographical storytelling and dazzling piano performance, this extraordinary production is currently touring the United States, with performances at Lincoln Center, the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, and Strings Music Festival. Mr. Hong’s triumphant return to the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in his hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan resulted in two weeks of concerts, culminating in a live-streamed performance of Rhapsody in Blue. Mr. Hong’s performances of Tchaikovsky’s epic Piano Concerto No. 1 electrified the season openers of the Cheyenne and North State Symphony Orchestras, as well as his astounding rendition of Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 with his hometown Riverside County Philharmonic. His third studio album Myths and Legends featuring works by Mussorgsky, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff and Chopin was released to rave reviews, and his groundbreaking collaborations with rock bands Crushed Out and Harrison Fjord continue to redefine the classical concert experience. Mr. Hong’s visionary approach to arts education makes him a sought-after clinician and Artist-in-Residence worldwide. He was the inaugural artist for the PLAY! series for Premiere Performances of Hong Kong, performing and lecturing in the country’s premier schools. His collaboration with Atlanta’s Trinity School culminated in a gala performance in Atlanta Symphony Hall, featuring Mr. Hong, members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, violin star Ben Beilman and Trinity students. This fall, he will return to Oshkosh, Wisconsin to curate a region-wide concert in the newly built Menominee Arena. In recognition of the pianist’s gift for communicating his passion for music to audiences of all ages, The McGraw-Hill Companies honored him with the Robert Sherman Award for Music Education and Community Outreach. Mr. Hong was recently appointed Music Director of the Riverside Arts Academy, where he has launched Harmony Project Riverside. This progressive program offers music training and instruments to underserved youth for little or no cost, and Mr. Hong has united these kids to form the region’s first youth orchestra. In addition to his musical talents, Mr. Hong is an internationally renowned speaker and host. His message of artistry, tolerance, and service knits communities together in a spirit of common humanity. Mr. Hong’s recent TEDx talk “Transform Yourself Into a Performer” at La Sierra University showcased his ability to inspire excellence in everyone, and has been viewed over 180,000 times. Mr. Hong is regularly featured as a keynote speaker for philanthropic and educational events, including the Korean American Scholarship Foundation’s National Gala, the Michigan Music Teachers Association annual conference, WDPR Dayton’s Catch a Rising Star Gala, the Alvord School District’s Convocation in Riverside, California, and Diversity Day in Idaho Falls in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Alpin Hong is a native of Michigan and made his orchestral debut with the Kalamazoo Symphony at the age of ten. He moved to Los Angeles soon after and garnered competition victories at a young age with wins at the 1989 Stravinsky Piano Competition, the 1993 Southern Youth Music Festival Competition and the 1994 Los Angeles Spotlight Awards Competition. He was the winner of the Concert Artists Guild Competition in 2001. His teachers include Mark Richman and Emilio del Rosario. He completed his Master’s degree as a student of Jerome Lowenthal at The Juilliard School.


2019 Judge

James Dunham

James Dunham

Violist James Dunhams’s rich background includes having been founding member of the Naumburg Award winning Sequoia String Quartet and subsequently violist of the Grammy Award winning Cleveland Quartet. An impassioned advocate of new music, he has premiered and recorded many works written for him: his recording of Judith Shatin’s “Glyph” for solo viola and piano quintet was praised by Fanfare Magazine as “reverent…beautifully, skillfully written” and “the playing here by soloist James Dunham is stunning: resonant and vital.” American composer Libby Larsen has written two works for Mr. Dunham and his colleagues: the Viola Sonata (2001) and the song cycle “Sifting Through the Ruins” (2005) for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano. Both appear on the CD “Circle of Friends” by Libby Larsen.

A frequent guest with ensembles such as the American, Jupiter, and Takács Quartets, Mr. Dunham is violist of the Axelrod String Quartet, in residence at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. where the group performs on their collection of Nicolò Amati and Stradivari instruments.

Highlights of recent seasons include performing the Shostakovich Viola Sonata with pianist Vladimir Feltsman, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with Queen Elisabeth Competition lauriate Will Hagen, and a three-week tour of their home country with the New Zealand String Quartet. In May 2017 he was Guest Artist and recitalist at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy” in Leipzig, Germany, followed by multiple performances at the Aspen Music Festival, including quintets with the Takács and American String Quartets. Mr. Dunham is featured regularly in concerts, master classes and competition juries throughout the U.S. and abroad, adjudicating twice for the Osaka International Chamber Music Competition and as a Senior Division juror for the Fischoff Chamber Music Competiton.

Mr. Dunham is Professor of Viola and Chamber Music at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music where he also co-directs its Master of Music in String Quartet program. Formerly on the faculty of California Institute of the Arts and the Eastman School of Music, he chaired the String Department at the New England Conservatory of Music for six years where he received the Louis & Adrienne Krasner Teaching Excellence Award.

Summer activities include yearly participation in the Aspen, Sarasota and Amelia Island

(FL) Music Festivals as well as frequent appearances at the Texas Music Festival, le Domaine Forget (Quebec), Garth Newel Center, Heifetz International Music Institute and La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest. In Houston he is heard regularly in concert with the St. Cecilia Chamber Music Society, Chamber Music Houston, Da Camera of Houston, Ars Lyrica Houston, Mercury Chamber Orchestra and the Houston Bach Society.

His recordings can be found on labels including Telarc, Innova, Nonesuch, Delos, Naxos and Crystal.


2018 Judges

Matt Albert Eric Byers
Matt Albert
Chair of Chamber Music at University of Michigan’s School of Music,
Theatre & Dance, University of Michigan
Eric Byers
Cellist, Calder Quartet

2017 Judges

img_Christopher-ORiley_1 img_Bruce_Uchimura
Christopher O’Riley
Acclaimed for his engaging and deeply committed performances, Christopher is known to millions as the host of NPR’s “From the Top.” His repertoire spans a kaleidoscopic array of music from the pre-baroque to present-day. He performs around the world and has garnered widespread praise for his untiring efforts to reach new audiences.
Bruce Uchimura
Bruce Uchimura is professor of music at Western Michigan University where he conducts the University Symphony Orchestra, teaches cello, and coaches chamber ensembles. He joined the faculty in the fall of 1987, having taught previously at the Augusta College Center for Creative Arts, Michigan State University, and the Preparatory and Adult Education department of the Cleveland Institute of Music.