FLINT — The 48th Annual William C. Byrd Young Artist Competition for Classical Piano took place at the Flint Institute of Music on March 2. The international competition attracted contestants from China, Israel, Taiwan and the United States. All are students or recent graduates from major schools of music in the United States.
16 contestants vied for the $6,000 first prize and the opportunity to perform as a guest artist with the Flint Symphony Orchestra during the 2019-20 symphony season. The winner was Ms. Wanting Zhao, currently a Doctor of Musical Arts (piano performance) student at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. She performed Piano Concerto No. 3 by Prokofiev.
There were two second place winners who were awarded $2,500 each. They are Mr. Joonghun Cho and Mr. Zixiang Wang, both University of Michigan students pursuing their Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance. Mr. Cho performed Piano Concerto No. 1 by Bartók, and Mr. Wang performed Piano Concerto No. 3 by Rachmaninoff.
Two other finalists who were not ranked received $1,000 each. Ms. Cecilia Sakong, a student at Pennsylvania State University, performed Piano Concerto No. 2 by Rachmaninoff, and Ms. Hyerim Lee, a student at the University of Michigan, played Piano Concerto No. 5 by Beethoven. Both women are pursuing Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Piano Performance.
The preliminary judge for the event was Dr. Howard Watkins, who is a piano collaborator for vocal artists and the Assistant Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York. He also is the voice coordinator at Tanglewood.
The three judges at the semi-final round (live auditions) were Professor Deborah Moriarty, Chair of the Michigan State University piano program; Dr. Stijn De Cock, Assistant Professor of Piano at Florida State University and founding director of the Brancaleoni (Italy) International Music Festival; and Dr. José Ramón Mendez, Assistant Professor of Piano at the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music and artistic director of the Gijon (Spain) International Piano Festival.
The William C. Byrd Competition is sponsored by the St. Cecilia Society of Flint, a music organization founded in 1890 to promote music in the Flint area and encourage deserving young musicians by awarding monetary prizes. The St. Cecilia Society is an affiliate of the Flint Institute of Music.
The “Young Artist Competition” was founded in 1971 by William C. Byrd, the former conductor of the Flint Symphony Orchestra. Following his untimely death in 1974, the St. Cecilia Society of Flint has continued the competition in his memory as the William C. Byrd Young Artist Competition. — B.G.