Lee University to Host International Piano Festival

The Lee University School of Music will present its 15th Annual International Piano Festival on June 23-29.

The event began in 2005 as a competition for high school students and was expanded in 2011 to include opportunities for participants to study with internationally-acclaimed artists. To kick off the festival week, the public will get a chance to hear faculty and guest artists in recital.

Highly-praised performers and teachers Natalya Antonova, Dr. Heather Conner, and Dr. Henry Wong Doe are the guest artists for this year’s festival, along with Lee faculty Dr. Joong Han (Jonathan) Jung, Dr. ChoEun Lee, Dr. Cahill Smith, and Dr. Phillip Thomas. Smith and Thomas will serve as artistic director and executive director of the festival, respectively.

“We are truly humbled to host a gathering of this caliber here at Lee,” said Smith. “An internationally-renowned-artist faculty will come together with top young pianists from around the world for a week-long celebration of the piano. Participants are presented unique and intimate opportunities to learn and grow as artists and professionals.”

Antonova made her debut with the Leningrad Philharmonic at the age of 16. She completed her undergraduate through postgraduate studies at the Leningrad Conservatory, where she later served as the youngest faculty member ever to be hired at the Conservatory. As a soloist of two major concert managements, “State Concert” and “Soviet Union Concert,” she has performed throughout Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Litva, Russia, and Ukraine. Antonova is a prize winner in the State Competition for Culture and Esthetics and winner in the State Competition of Young Pianists in Moscow. Formerly on the faculty of the Leningrad Conservatory, she currently teaches piano at the famed Eastman School of Music.

Conner is the chancellor’s chair of pre-college piano at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University. Prior to this, she was professor of piano at the University of Utah School of Music, where she served on the faculty for 14 years. As a recitalist, she has performed in many prestigious venues such as New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Moscow, and Salzburg. Conner has won the Grand Prize at several international and national competitions and has performed on numerous occasions as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Doe was born in New Zealand and has earned top prizes, including two “Audience Favorite” awards, in the Rubinstein, Busoni, and Sydney International Piano competitions. He has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Heinz Hall, St. Martin-in-the-Fields London, Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay Singapore, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, Israel. Doe currently serves as professor of piano at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and has released four highly praised commercial recordings.

Jung joined the faculty of Lee’s School of Music as an assistant professor of piano in the fall of 2017. He has performed with the Eastman Philharmonic Orchestra and Korean Philharmonic Orchestra of New Zealand. As a composer, Jung’s original pieces have been featured in Brevard Music Center, Carnegie Hall, and Hatch Recital Hall. He has received awards in the Christchurch National Piano Concerto Competition, Eastman Concerto Competition, and Kapiti Coast National Piano Competition.

Lee joined the Lee University School of Music faculty in 2017 as an assistant professor of collaborative piano and vocal coaching. She has extensive collaborative experiences in vocal and chamber music repertoires and has given numerous performances in Australia, Austria, Italy, Korea, New Zealand, and the U.S., and in major venues including Carnegie Hall in New York City, Harris Concert Hall in Aspen Music Festival, and Ozawa Hall in Tanglewood Music Center. Lee has been named a recipient of the Grace B. Jackson Prize.

Smith, assistant professor of piano, joined Lee’s faculty in 2014. He began playing at age 10, and by 16, he made his orchestral debut with a local orchestra. In the U.S. and abroad, Smith has performed recitals in major venues including four programs at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Kilbourn Hall, and the PolyTheater in Chongqing, China. His live and studio recordings have been broadcast on WQXR, New York’s Classical Music Radio Station and WSMC, Chattanooga Public Radio. Smith has been featured as a concerto soloist with the National Ukranian Symphony Orchestra, the Mongolian Symphony Orchestra, the Eastman Philharmonia, and the Chattanooga Symphony.

Thomas, distinguished professor of music and chairperson of Lee’s musicianship studies department, joined Lee’s faculty in 1977. Thomas had a long tenure as keyboardist for the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, appearing with them as harpsichord soloist on two occasions. He has studied piano, music history, and harpsichord at some of the world’s finest institutions and has also served as adjudicator for a variety of competitions on the local, regional, and international levels. He has served as chair for the Festival since it began.

The Festival will begin with a concert by faculty and guest artists on Sunday, June 23, at 5:30 p.m. in Squires Recital Hall, located in the Humanities Center. Later in the week, participants will compete for cash awards totaling $10,000, as well as scholarships for undergraduate and graduate studies at the university. All Festival events are free and open to the public.

“This is the kind of experience I dreamed of as a student,” said Smith. “This year, I am especially excited to welcome my dear teacher from my doctoral studies, Natalya Antonova, to our festival. We hope everyone can join us for this feast of piano music!”

For more information on the Lee University International Piano Festival, contact the Department of Musicianship Studies at (423) 614-8264, [email protected] or visit Piano Festival.

(Source: Lee University)

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