International Piano Festival and Competition

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Once again, Lee University’s School of Music will present its International Piano Festival and Competition, June 17-23. The event, which began in 2005 as a competition for high school students, was expanded in 2011 to include opportunities for participants to study with internationally acclaimed artists. At the same time, it offers the public a chance to take in some brilliant performances.

This year’s festival has attracted 16 outstanding young pianists to the Lee campus. The participants come from across the country and range in age from middle school to grad school.

Acclaimed performers and teachers Matti Raekallio, Tian Ying, and Thomas Lanners are the guest artists for this year’s festival. Lee faculty Ning An and Dr. Gloria Chien will also contribute to the festival, which is chaired by Dr. Phillip Thomas.

One feature of this annual event is that these special guest artists offer concerts to the community. There are also opportunities for the festival participants to perform for the public in a concert setting, applying the lessons learned in their daytime training. On the event’s final two days, the guest artists also serve as judges for a competition among 11 of the festival participants.

This year’s festival will feature concerts Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. After registration and an opening reception for the participants on Sunday and master classes with An and Ying on Monday, Lanners and Ying will take the stage in the first concert Monday evening.

The concerts on Tuesday and Wednesday evening will feature selected festival participants, talented piano students from around the globe. Raekallio and An will take the stage Friday night. Each of the festival concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Squires Hall on the Lee campus and are free and open to the public.

Tuesday through Thursday, morning and afternoon master classes will continue with An, Lanners, Raekallio and Ying. Faculty and guest artists will also offer private lessons.

On Friday, the competition will begin at 10:00 a.m. and showcase the talents of 11 high school students from across the country. Winners will be presented on the morning of Saturday, June 23, following the competition’s final round which begins at 10:00 a.m.

Matt Raekallio, professor of piano at The Julliard School in New York, has studied in his home country of Finland, as well as with Maria Curcio in London, Dieter Weber at the Vienna Academy of Music, and at the Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) Conservatory. He has been an active concert performer, making his American debut in 1981 at the Carnegie (Weill) Recital Hall. Since then, Raekallio has made regular tours of the US, including solo recitals and performances with several American orchestras.

Raekallio frequently serves as a juror and gives regular master classes throughout the US, Europe, and Asia.

Tian Ying, associate professor of keyboard performance at The Frost School of Music, University of Miami, is praised by the Boston Globe as “one of the finest pianists active in America.” With his reputation for unusually searching and profound interpretations played at the highest level of virtuoso accomplishment, Ying has earned a distinguished place among today’s most exciting, original and accomplished artists of his generation.

Solo recitals have taken Ying across North America, Europe, and from Casablanca to Seoul, and he frequently conducts master classes in universities and colleges around the country.

Thomas Lanners has appeared as a solo and collaborative pianist and clinician throughout the US and abroad, presenting his New York solo debut in Carnegie (Weill) Recital Hall in 2004. His performances have been broadcast nationally and internationally on programs such as American Public Media’s Performance Today and RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany in Ireland, among many others. He currently serves as a professor of piano at Oklahoma State University.

Ning An has been hailed as a musician who “combines a flawless technique and mastery of the instrument with an expressive power that is fueled by profound and insightful understanding.” (New York Concert Review) His top prizes from the Queen Elizabeth, Cleveland, and William Kapell Piano Competitions led to performances from Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, Salle Verdi (Milan), to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. An has given master classes throughout the US and Asia and is currently an assistant professor of piano at Lee.

Gloria Chien, founder and artistic director of the String Theory Chamber Series, currently serves as a member of the Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston and an associate professor at Lee. She has performed solo recitals around the world and earned distinction at countless competitions and festivals, including World Piano Competition and San Antonio Competition. Chien began her career in Taiwan, establishing herself at the National Piano Competition before coming to the United States at age 14.

Phillip Thomas serves as the chair for this year’s festival. He has studied piano, music history, and conducting 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. A former member of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, he is currently the chair for the Department of Instrumental Music at Lee.

For more information on the Lee University International Piano Festival and Competition, please contact the Department of Instrumental Music at 423-614-8264 or the School of Music at 423-614-8240, or visit

Photo:  (from top) Raekaillio, Ying, Lanners, An, Chien, Thomas