Inaugural Wadsworth Piano Competition Announces Semi-Finalists For April 2018 Competition

Inaugural Wadsworth Piano Competition Announces Semi-Finalists For April 2018 Competition

The Charles Wadsworth Piano Competition (CWPC) today announces the eight semi-finalists chosen to compete in the inaugural competition held at The Donald W. Nixon Centre for the Visual and Performing Arts in Newnan, GA: Nadia Azzi (Colburn School, CA), Hilda Huang (Yale University, CT), Aristo Sham (Harvard University, MA), Zhiheng Guo (Manhattan School of Music, NY), Dominic Cheli (Colburn School, CA), Michael Davidman (Curtis Institute of Music, PA), Angie Zhang (The Juilliard School, NY), Peng Lin (The Juilliard School, NY).

Named after Newnan, Georgia native, pianist Charles Wadsworth, this competition honors Wadsworth's extensive legacy and contributions to the field of classical music, through his work as both the founding director of the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center, and former artistic director at the Spoleto USA Festival. The inaugural competition, dedicated to providing artistic and entrepreneurial growth opportunities for talented pianists aged 18 to 25 in early stages of career development, will take place from April 22 to 25, 2018.

The eight competitors selected from the preliminary audition will travel to Newnan to take part in the semi-final and final rounds of the competition, adjudicated by jurors Anne-Marie McDermott, Pedja Muzijevic, and Jeffrey Swann. The semifinalists will perform a 40-50 minute program of their choosing, and the three finalists will perform a Romantic-era concert piece of their choosing, as well as a piano quintet in collaboration with the Aeolus Quartet. Prizes include $15,000 for first prize, $7,500 for second prize, and $5,000 for third prize. The eight semifinalists are also eligible for $1,000 awards for contemporary music achievement, and for chamber music achievement. The five competitors in the in-person round that do not make the final round all receive a $1,000 stipend.

About the Semi-Finalists

Nadia Azzi - Colburn School (Los Angeles, CA)
Born in Dunedin, Florida to Japanese-Lebanese parents, nineteen-year-old Nadia Azzi began playing the piano at the age of five. She combines her versatile artistry as a soloist, chamber musician, and as a collaborative artist.

Azzi is the recipient of top prizes in numerous competitions, including the Clement Clark Moore Scholarship; 2015, 2016, and 2017 National YoungArts Competitions; and 2014 Karlfried Nordmann Memorial Scholarship Piano Competition. She received the special award at the 2015 Ishikawa Music Academy, First Prize at the 2013 Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition, Second Prize and Audience Prize at the 2013 Thousand Islands International Piano Competition, and Grand Prize at the 2012 Crescendo International Competition. She was also awarded top prizes at the Walgreens National Concerto Competition, Tampa Bay Symphony Young Artist Competition, New Music National Young Artist Competition, Orfeo International Music Festival Competition, and the Gold Medalist at the AADGT "Passion of Music" International Music Festival.

At age eleven, Azzi debuted at Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall. Following engagements of note include her European debut at Italy's Teatro Communale and her orchestral debut at age 12 with the Boston Neapolitan Orchestra under conductor Jon Ceander Mitchell. She has performed as a soloist with Colburn Orchestra, the Orchestre de la Francophonie, New Philharmonic Orchestra, Northwest Indiana Symphony, Tampa Bay Symphony, Beaufort Orchestra, and Richey Orchestra among others.

Azzi's former teachers and mentors include Kinuyo Engelbrecht, Grigorios Zamparas, and Leonidas Lipovetsky. She is also a member of American MENSA. Azzi graduated from the pre-college division of The Juilliard School studying under Dr. Yoheved Kaplinsky, and currently studies with Fabio Bidini at the Colburn Conservatory of Music.

Dominic Cheli - Colburn School (Los Angeles, CA)
Applauded by MusicWeb International for his "splendid playing...great skill and technical prowess," pianist Dominic Cheli is First Prize winner of the 2017 Concert Artists Guild Competition. Earlier in 2017, Naxos released his debut recital CD, and he won the Music Academy of the West Concerto Competition, leading to a critically acclaimed performance of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Festival Orchestra. His rapidly advancing career includes his upcoming concerto debut in Europe and his Carnegie Hall recital debut on the 2018-19 CAG Series at Weill Recital Hall.

A native of St. Louis, Cheli has been praised for playing with "...insight and tenderness [one] would expect from a much older, experienced performer" (The Heartland Journal). He has performed at many notable venues, including Carnegie Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, the Granada Theatre of Santa Barbara and the Sheldon Concert Hall of St. Louis, and recently performed with his hometown Metropolitan Orchestra of St. Louis. Cheli has received numerous awards from Yale University including the Elizabeth Parisot Prize and the Charles S. Miller Prize. He also received the Harold Bauer Award from the Manhattan School of Music.

Dominic Cheli began his musical training in St. Louis, and is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, California, studying with Fabio Bidini. He earned his Master of Music degree from Yale University and Bachelor's degree from the Manhattan School of Music. Past teachers include Zena Ilyashov, Peter Frankl, André-Michel Schub and Sylvia Rosenberg.

Michael Davidman - Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia, PA)
Born in New York City in 1997, Michael Davidman started piano lessons at five years old with Michiyo Morikawa from 2002-2005 at Greenwich House Music School, 2005-2015 piano performance with Efrem Briskin at Manhattan School of Music, conducting with Jonathan Strasser 2009-2015 and David Gilbert 2013-2015. Davidman is presently studying piano with Robert McDonald since 2015 at Curtis Institute of Music having been awarded the Gay Elliot Scott Annual Fellowship.

As a soloist, he has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Yonkers Philharmonic Orchestra, Ithaca College Orchestra, Summit Music Festival Orchestra, Bronx Arts Ensemble Orchestra, New York Concerti Sinfonietta, West Point Orchestra, and the NY Chamber Orchestra in renowned halls such as Lincoln Center, The Kimmel Center, Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Steinway Hall, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Among his many awards, Davidman is a first prize winner of the Grand Prize LISMA Foundation 9th International Music Competition, 33rd Ithaca College of Music Piano Competition, 2012 Yonkers Philharmonic Concerto Competition, Mary Smart International Concerto Competition, Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Concerto Competition (2008, 2010, 2014), and 2009 Wagner College Young Musician's Competition.

Michael completed the fourth and final year of The Chopin Foundation of the United States Scholarship program, and his performances have been featured on WHYY "On Stage at Curtis", WWFM, NPR's "From the Top," The Robert Sherman Show on WQXR, and was the youngest selected by audition at age thirteen to perform in the 2010 Lang Lang Master Class at the Manhattan School of Music.

Zhiheng Guo - Manhattan School of Music (New York, NY)
Zhiheng Guo was born in 1997 in Nanjing, China. He started learning piano at the age of 4 and was admitted to the middle school affiliated with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 2007 to study with Jiang Chen. In 2015, he moved to America to pursue an undergraduate degree at Manhattan School of Music, where he studies with Marc Silverman.

Zhiheng Guo possess extraordinary music talent and learning capacity, having memorized nearly two hundred concert programs and twenty concertos. At the age of nine, he held his first solo recital in Shanghai, performing all of Bach's Inventions. In 2010, Zhiheng performed with Arie Vardi in the International Musical Festival in Jangsu and in 2011, he was invited by the Shanghai International Arts Festival to perform New Year charity concerts at the Shanghai Theater, Hangzhou Concert Hall, Nanjing Great Hall of People, and Xian Concert Hall with Master Cyprien Kataris. Zhiheng also performs regularly with Shanghai Oriental Symphony Orchestra and Xiamen Philharmonic. He has worked with many great pianists such as Dominique Merlet, Dang Thai Son, John Perry, Arie Vardi, Mikhail Voskresensky, Christopher Elton, Berry Douglas, Fu Cong, Xu Zhong.

Zhiheng won Second Prize at the Shanghai Steinway National Piano Competition for Young Musicians in 2007, First Prize at the International Music Festival 2010 in Jiangsu; First Prize at the Beijing International Music Festival and Academy Concerto Competition, and the honorary prize of the Golden Bell Piano Competition in Guangzhou 2013. During his sophomore year in Manhattan School of Music, he won the Mieczyslaw Munz Scholarship.

Hilda Huang - Yale University (New Haven, CT)
Pianist Hilda Huang came to international attention after being awarded first prize in the 2014 Leipzig International Bach Competition, the only American first prize winner in the history of the competition. She also has the singular distinction of being awarded the top prizes at both the Würzburg and Tureck International Bach Competitions. Huang made her professional and orchestral debut in 2008 under Erich Kunzel with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Since then, she has appeared in recital at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, at BASF Ludwigshafen, and the Leipzig and Montréal Bach Festivals. In 2016, Huang was a Protégé Project young artist at Chamber Music Northwest, and in 2017, a Steans Fellow at the Ravinia Festival.

Hilda Huang studies with Melvin Chen at the Yale School of Music, where she now pursues a Masters of Music. Previously, she was a long-time student of pianist John McCarthy and harpsichordist Corey Jamason in the Preparatory Division of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She has also received additional instruction in performance, musicianship and conducting from Robert Blocker, David Finckel, Michael Friedmann, Wu Han, Gilbert Kalish, Robert Levin, Anton Nel, David Shifrin, and Benjamin Simon.

Huang graduated magna cum laude from Yale College in 2017, receiving a B.S. in chemistry with distinction and the Wrexham and Sharp prizes from the department of music. She is a 2013 Presidential Scholar in the Arts, a Gold Award recipient from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts' YoungArts Week, and a 2008 Davidson Fellow.

Peng Lin - The Juilliard School (New York, NY)
Peng Lin, the first prize winner of the 5th Rhodes International Piano Competition in 2012, is a rising star of the young generation of pianists. Lin made her New York Lincoln Center debut in 2015 with the Juilliard Orchestra lead by conductor Peter Oundjian. Lin was the prize winner of numerous international competitions, including the Bach special prize in the 2016 Rina Sala Gallo International Piano Competition, the second prize of the Louisiana International Piano Competition, the third prize and Chopin Prize of the 8th International Competition for Young Pianists "Arthur Rubinstein in Memoriam."

Lin was born and raised on Gulangyu "the piano island" in Xiamen, China. She began to play piano at the age of four and made her orchestral debut with Mozart's Concerto K. 467 at the age of nine. At the age of eleven, she left her hometown to study in the Central Conservatory in Beijing, where she won the first prize in five national piano competitions. Five years later, she entered in the Pre-College of The Juilliard School, under the tutelage of Dr. Yoheved Kaplinsky. She spent six summers performing and studying in Aspen Music Festival and School, where she was one of the three recipients of The New Horizon Fellowship.

In 2016, Lin graduated from The Juilliard School with Bachelor of Music degree. She pursues her Master of Music degree at the Juilliard, studying with Hung-Kuan Chen and Dr. Yoheved Kaplinsky. In addition to classical piano, Lin has wide interests in both historical keyboard instruments and modern music production.

Aristo Sham - Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
Hailed by The Washington Post as a young artist with "boundless potential" who can "already hold his own with the best," pianist Aristo Sham has dazzled audiences on five continents. He has collaborated with orchestras such as the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne and the Minnesota Orchestra. In 2009, Sham was featured in the documentary The World's Greatest Musical Prodigies.

Aristo Sham first came under international recognition when he won First Prize and the Barenreiter Urtext Special Prize in the Ettlingen International Piano Competition in Germany in 2006 and First Prize in the Gina Bachauer International Junior Piano Competition in 2008. More recently, he was awarded First Prizes in the inaugural Viseu International Piano Competition in Portugal, the Wideman International Piano Competition, the PianoArts Competition in Milwaukee, and the New York International Piano Competition. In 2017, he also won prizes in the Vendome Prize at Verbier Festival, Clara Haskil, Saint-Priest and Viotti International Piano Competitions.

Born in Hong Kong, Sham was first introduced to the piano at the age of three and joined the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts when he was six. His principal teachers include Professors Eleanor Wong, Colin Stone, Victor Rosenbaum, and Julia Mustonen-Dahlkvist. He was a student at Harrow School in the UK, and is currently pursuing a BA in Economics and French, and a MM in Piano Performance as a joint programme at Harvard University and New England Conservatory. In addition, he travels to Sweden regularly for studies at the Ingesund School of Music.

Angie Zhang - The Juilliard School (New York, NY)
Hailed as a "valuable advocate for classical music from her generation" by New York Concert Review, pianist Angie Zhang is currently a graduate student and Kovner Fellow at The Juilliard School, studying with Yoheved Kaplinsky and Joseph Kalichstein.

Charming audiences with her sensitive playing and thoughtful programming, Zhang has performed extensively as a soloist with orchestras since her debut at the age of ten in Portland. She has since made debuts and return engagements with the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic under José Antonio Molina and Zenaida Romeu, the Olympia Symphony Orchestra and Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra under Huw Edwards, the Juilliard Orchestra under Maestro Fabio Luisi, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under Andrews Sill, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra under Matthew Kraemer, and the Missouri Symphony Orchestra under Kirk Trevor. She will make her conducting debut with the Juilliard Chamber Orchestra in February 2018 in Ridgewood, New Jersey and at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center.

Zhang continues to expand and deepen her musical offerings through taking on diverse artistic roles, both in and beyond the concert hall. As a recipient of Juilliard's Gluck Fellowship, she and other musicians, dancers, and actors performed in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, pediatric centers, and psychiatric wards in NYC. Possessing a fiery passion for teaching, Zhang often integrates ideas and transferable skills from sports psychology and other fields into a holistic and personalized curriculum. Currently teaching Pre-College and College Division students at Juilliard as a recipient of numerous teaching fellowships and assistantships, and maintaining a private studio, Zhang hopes to obtain her doctoral degree and contribute to the field of pedagogy and interdisciplinary research.

More About The Charles Wadsworth Piano Competition (CWPC)
While many music competitions focus solely on the artistic merits of competitors, today's developing market demands a more diverse skill set for an outstanding musical career. A primary goal of the CWPC is to encourage these comprehensive skill sets by providing opportunities to showcase the ability to put together a compelling and cohesive recital program and perform as a chamber musician, as well as performing traditional solo repertoire. Each finalist will perform a major Piano Quintet as part of their required repertoire.

The competition was originally conceived by previous Executive Director Donald W. Nixon, who passed away in February 2016. "I see the piano competition as a living legacy for Don," said Cathe Nixon, Donald's wife, and current Executive Director. "It was a dream of his and this is a way for us to keep some of his vision and passion alive. He very much believed in the students and the opportunities that we can give students."

Unlike many other competitions of its kind, transportation, and housing is provided for all participants competing in the live competition. The Wadsworth International Piano Competition is made possible by the support of the Blackwell Trust.

About the Donald W. Nixon Performing Arts Center
The Donald W. Nixon Centre for Performing and Visual Arts strives to be an extension of the classroom, no matter the age of the student, and provides opportunities exposing its patrons to the arts, increasing their knowledge and appreciation for multiple forms of artistic expression, and enhancing the total living experience for all the people it is able to touch. The Nixon Centre has presented a wide range of performances by artists including the Vienna Boys Choir, Taylor 2, Martha Graham Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the American Boychoir, and "The President's Own" United States Marine Band, as well as visual art exhibitions featuring the work of Francoise Gilot and Bruno Zupan.

The Centre was funded by a SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) grant along with an investment by the Coweta County School System, and is available for use by all citizens of the surrounding communities with special emphasis on school system events.


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