Monday, January 8, 2018

WINNERS: The American Prize in Piano (solo), 2017-18

The American Prize is honored to announce the winners, runners-up, and citation recipients of The American Prize in Piano Performance (solo), 2017-18, in professional, college/university and high school divisions. Congratulations!

Complete listings of finalists and semi-finalists in The American Prize competitions may be found elsewhere on this blog. Please use the chronological tool in the right-hand column to find specific results.

Please make us aware of any misprints:

The American Prize in Piano Performance (solo), 2017-18
(professional division)

The American Prize winner:
Roberto Plano   Holliston MA
Roberto Plano
Italian native ROBERTO PLANO was the First Prize Winner at the 2001 Cleveland International Piano Competition, a prize winner at the Honens, Dublin, Sendai, Geza Anda and Valencia competitions and Finalist at the 2005 Van Cliburn. Mr. Plano’s engaging personality has made him a favorite guest on radio programs such as NPR’s “Performance Today,” and on TV shows for PBS and Japan’s NHK. He has recorded CDs for Brilliant, Azica, Arktos, Sipario, Concerto (two world premier CDs with music by re-discovered 18th century Italian composer Andrea Luchesi) and DECCA (Liszt’s “Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses”, awarded the maximum 5-star rating by Amadeus magazine). Mr. Plano studied at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, the Ecole Normale “Cortot” in Paris and the Lake Como Academy. In 2016 Mr. Plano joined the faculty at Boston University.. He has been awarded the Lumen Claro, given to influential people like soprano Barbara Frittoli, stylist Ottavio Missoni and economist Mario Monti.

2nd PLACE (there was a tie):
Quynh Nguyen   New York NY
Quynh Nguyen
Praised by the Boston Globe as “a musical and expressive player,” pianist Quynh Nguyen has performed extensively throughout the US and Europe. As a concerto soloist, she has performed with the Jager Meister Chamber Orchestra, the Berlin University Orchestra, the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, the Regional Wind Orchestra of Paris, among others. Her performances have been featured on numerous radio stations throughout the US, as well as TV programs such as “Grand Piano,” “Study With the Best,” a CUNY TV program, Japanese TV Fujisankei and Vietnamese national television.

A graduate of the Juilliard School and Mannes College, she received her Doctoral degree from the Graduate Center of CUNY in 2009. She is the recipient of several highly prestigious scholarships and awards, including the United States Presidential Academic Excellence Award and a Fulbright Fellowship to Paris, and serves on the faculties of Hunter College and the International Keyboard Institute and Festival.

2nd PLACE (there was a tie):
Gabriel Quenneville-Belair   Minneapolis MN
Gabriel Quenneville-Belair
Born in Montreal, Gabriel Quenneville-Belair is a French Canadian pianist who regularly performs in the US and Canada. He has performed Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 with the OSI and OPMEM Orchestras (Canada) as well as with the Kenwood Symphony and the University of Minnesota Orchestra (USA). His performances have been broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio, Radio Ville-Marie, Baby Blue Arts, and Pulsar. More recently, he was invited to perform a solo recital and masterclass by the Musicians’ Association of Tai’an, China.

Gabriel has been the recipient of many competitions and scholarships. Among other prizes, the Fondation de soutien aux arts de Laval rewarded him with the prestigious Career Development Scholarship Claude F. Lefebvre, which will sponsor his next solo album.

Gabriel Quenneville-Belair earned his Doctorate in Piano Performance from the University of Minnesota in 2016, studying with Lydia Artymiw and his Master’s Degree in Piano Performance from the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal in 2013, with Richard Raymond.

3rd PLACE:
Mirna Lekic   Bayside NY
Mirna Lekic
Mirna Lekić is a Bosnian-American pianist active as a recitalist, chamber musician and educator. Praised for her “intelligent and sincere pianism” (Examiner), and “natural inventiveness and emotion” (Žena 21), she has performed in the United States, Canada, and Europe, at venues including New York’s Carnegie-Weill Hall, Symphony Space, World Trade Center, Chicago Cultural Center, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, and Théâtre de l'Ile Saint-Louis and Théâtre de la Vieille Grille in Paris. Mirna’s solo performances have been broadcast on WQXR, WNYC, WFMT, WPRB, and Bosnian TV and radio stations, and her solo debut album, Masks, was released in January 2017 on Centaur Records. Mirna serves as Assistant Professor of Music at Queensborough Community College, City University of New York. (

SPECIAL JUDGES' CITATION: "Exceptional Commitment to Music by Americans"
Kris Carlisle   Rome GA
Kris Carlisle
Kris Carlisle is a professional pianist and educator.  A native of California, he has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

Specializing in contemporary music, his CD The American Evolution: Piano Sonatas received 2015’s The American Prize in Piano Performance Special Judge’s Citation: “Championing Piano Music by American Composers”.  The CD is part of a larger project that explores the way contemporary composers use traditional genres.

The latest phase The American Evolution: Piano Preludes was released in December of 2016.  The CD is available through CDBaby and Curvepoint Media.  For more information go to

The American Prize in Piano Performance (solo), 2017-18
(college/university division)

The American Prize winner 
& SPECIAL JUDGES' CITATION: Best Concept Album, 
for "Scarlatti Now"
Nicholas Susi   Saint Louis MO
Nicholas Susi
2015-17 National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) Young Artist, pianist Nicholas Susi enjoys a multifaceted career living out his deep love for music. The 2016-17 season saw over 25 engagements across the country as performer, masterclass clinician, competition adjudicator, lecturer, and community outreach speaker.

Performance highlights from previous seasons include two concerts for the Princess von Hohenzollern at her castle in Namedy, Germany, his performance during the semifinals of the 2014 International Franz Liszt Piano Competition, and concerto solos with the Omaha Symphony, Wiener Residenz Orchester, and Taneycomo Festival Orchestra among others. Past recognitions also include 2nd place at the 2014 Mu Phi Epsilon International Competition, 1st prize at the international 2013 Klavierfestival Rösrath competition, and prestigious grants from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst.

Nicholas recently completed his doctorate in Piano Performance at the University of Michigan. For details on upcoming performances, booking information, and further listening, please visit

2nd PLACE (there was a tie): 
Natasha Stojanovska   Chicago IL
Natasha Stojanovska
Pianist, Natasha Stojanovska was born in Prilep, Macedonia. She has appeared numerous times with symphony orchestras including: South Bend Symphony, Macedonian Philharmonic, Lynn Philharmonic and Brevard Music Center Orchestra. She has performed in Concert Halls including: Steinway Piano Gallery of Miami- in Florida; The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center of University of Notre dame, Indiana; The Forth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, 2015; Chicago Cultural Center. Her performances have been broadcasted on the following radio and TV Stations: Macedonian Radio and Television; WFMT Chicago; WNIT Public Television. Ms Stojanovska has been  awarded many honors including: Third prize at the Thaviu-Isaak Piano Competition, 2017;  The Kenneth G. and Helen C. Merrill Scholarship Fund with the Bienen School of Music; 1st prize at the Southern Illinois Young Artists Competition in April 2015; Finalist, Astral Artists Auditions, Philadelphia, PA, 2014; Top prize at the 2012 Indianapolis Matinee Musicale Collegiate Competition; Prize winner of "Isidor Baich International Piano Competition" Novi Sad, Serbia; Prize winner of the " Liszt and Bartok International Competition" Sofia, Bulgaria. Ms. Stojanovska completed her Master’s Degree and Artist Diploma at Indiana University; and is currently working on her Doctorate of Musical Arts at The Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University, in the studio of James Giles.

2nd PLACE (there was a tie):
John Wilson   Miami Beach FL
John Wilson
Hailed for his “expressive sensitivity” (Baltimore Sun) and “assured touch” (South Florida Classical Review) John Wilson is one of the most in-demand pianists on the classical music scene. A Piano Fellow at the New World Symphony Orchestral Academy, he has performed in North America, South America and Europe. Mr. Wilson has performed recently as a soloist with the New World Symphony, Napa Valley Symphony Orchestra, New Amsterdam Symphony, and Orchestra Camerata. A top prize winner in international piano competitions, he  most recently won the prize for the "Best Performance of an American Work" at the 2017 Liszt-Garrison International Piano Competition. Dedicated to contemporary music, he has performed on the U.S and World Premiere of works by Michael Tilson Thomas, Reinbert de Leeuw, HK Gruber, Timo Andres, and Bernd Deutsch. He has performed in duo recital with violinist Joshua Bell, and cellist Johannes Moser, where Classical Miami Magazine called his playing “elegant and full of energy”. He has additionally collaborated with Daniel Hope, Robert McDuffie and Alisa Weilerstein. At home in many styles and instruments, he has also collaborated with David Foster, on synthesizer, and Audra McDonald, on piano. Through the New World Symphony, Mr. Wilson has studied with Emanuel Ax, Garrick Ohlsson, Murray Perahia, Ingrid Fliter, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet. At Peabody Conservatory, he studied with Benjamin Pasternack and Marian Hahn, and earned the Presser Award. For more information visit

3rd PLACE (there was a tie):
Chia-Ying Chan   Urbana IL
Chia-Ying Chan
Chia-Ying Chan, originally from Taiwan, brings passion, color, sensitivity and creativity to her interpretations of classical music. She is an active soloist and collaborator, who has given performances internationally, including at Conservatorio Superior de Musica de Austurias in Oviedo, Spain; National Recital Hall in Taipei, Taiwan; and Carnegie Weill Hall in New York, and have been invited to perform at Wiener Saal Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.  Chan has won top prizes, such as the 2016 American Fine Arts International Concerto Competition (First Place), and the 2014 West Virginia University Keyboard Competition (First Prize). Her most recent performances include solo recital at PianoForte Foundation in Chicago, solo Performance at Schubertiade in Chicago, and concerto performances with Kostroma Symphony Orchestra contacted by Pavel Gershtein in Russia. Chan is currently a DMA candidate of Timothy Ehlen (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). Other mentors include Paul Schenly and Kathryn Brown (Cleveland Institute of Music).

3rd PLACE (there was a tie):
Gabrielle Chou   Pembroke Pines FL
Gabrielle Chou
Gabrielle Chou, 21, is a New York-based pianist and violinist. She is currently in the Accelerated Bachelors/Masters program at The Juilliard School, where she studies with Jerome Lowenthal on piano, Lewis Kaplan on violin, and is the recipient of the Vladimir Horowitz Scholarship and the Susan W. Rose Piano Fellowship. Gabrielle has been a piano and violin soloist with orchestras in the US, Spain, Italy, and Taiwan, and has performed in Alice Tully Hall, the Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall,  and the Taipei National Theater and Concert Hall. Gabrielle was the silver medalist at the 6th Yamaha USASU International Piano Competition, and a two-time recipient of the Chopin Foundation Scholarship. She has attended the Aspen Music Festival and School both as a pianist and on a two-year violin fellowship, and she was a Solo Piano fellow at the 2016 Music Academy of the West. Her website is

The American Prize in Piano Performance (solo), 2017-18
(high school division) 

The American Prize winner:
Victor Shlyakhtenko   Los Angeles CA
Victor Shlyakhtenko
Victor Shlyakhtenko, age 16, has been studying piano at the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts under the direction of Teresa de Jong Pombo since the age of five. Last year, Victor performed at Carnegie Hall in New York under the auspices of the InterHarmony International Music Festival, and at the Walt Disney Concert Hall as a Grand Prize Winner of The Music Center’s Spotlight competition. He received first prize and a Special Prize in the 2016 Los Angeles International Liszt Competition and was an invited performer at the annual Liszt Society Festival at Northwestern University. Victor’s other recent honors include first prizes at the 2017 Parness Concerto competition, 2017 ENKOR International Music Competition, 2016 California MTNA  Piano Competition, 2016 California MTNA Composition Competition, 2017 Robert Turner Piano Concerto Competition, and the Orange County CAPMT Young Musicians Concerto Competition. In 2015–2016, Victor was chosen as the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust’s Musical Ambassador, also performing in their Annual Gala and their 2015 Lisa Jura Young Pianist Showcase Recital. Victor has appeared as soloist with the Orange County Symphony, Los Angeles Doctors Symphony, Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Collective of Orange County, as well as the Colburn Youth Orchestra and Colburn Concert Choir, performing concerti by Mendelssohn, Chopin, Grieg, and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. Victor is a recipient of the Richard D. Colburn scholarship at the Colburn School of Performing Arts.

2nd PLACE: 
Avik Sarkar   Chestnut Hill MA
Avik Sarkar
Avik Sarkar is a sixteen-year-old pianist, cellist & composer, who is currently a sophomore at Buckingham Browne & Nichols (BB&N), Cambridge, MA. He studies piano with Mana Tokuno and Alexander Korsantia. Avik has also won prizes at several international, regional, and state piano competitions, including 1st prize at Forte International Music, 2nd prize at New York International Artists and 3rd prize at Louisiana International and Hartford Chopin International Piano competitions. He has won multiple prizes at NEPTA, MTNA, MMTA & Steinway Society of Massachusetts piano competitions. He has performed in recitals at Cadogan Hall in London, UK, Symphony Hall in Boston, Carnegie Hall in New York City, and was heard on WGBH Radio, NPR, Boston. Avik brings music to the community as a member of From the Top’s Center for the Development of Arts Leaders (CDAL) in Boston. Aside from music, he enjoys competition math, writing poetry and watercolor painting.

3rd PLACE:
Jarrett Mitsuhiro Takaki   Willmette IL 
Jarrett Mitsuhiro Takaki
Jarrett Takaki, age 18, is a senior at New Trier High School, and a student of Sueanne Metz. He has performed with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the University of Alicante in Perugia Italy, the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago, the Harper College Symphony Orchestra and the MostArts Orchestra at Alfred University in New York. He was a winner in the 2017 YoungArts Competition. In the summer of 2016, he was a semifinalist in the Southeastern Piano Festival and Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition, won the Grand Prize in the Senior Solo and Concerto Divisions of the Indiana Carmel Klavier International Piano Competition, and won second place in the ENKOR International Music Competition. He has received first place awards at the De Paul University Concerto Festival for Young Performers, the American Fine Arts Festival International Piano Competition, The Walgreens National Concerto Competition, the Emilio Del Rosario Concerto
Competition, the Young Artist Piano Competition at Tennessee Tech University, and The Lee Piano Competition at Augustana College. Jarrett was a semifinalist at the Yamaha International Piano Competition, the Kaufman Music Center International Youth Piano Competition, and won second place in the 2012 Cleveland International Piano Competition.


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