Six outstanding student pianists from across the country were winners of the Jazz and Classical Piano Competitions during the Keyboard Festival and Competition hosted by the College of Creative Arts and the School of Music at West Virginia University July 2-6.

Titled The Intersection of Jazz and Classical Music: a Piano Festival for Students and Teachers, the event explored the many ways jazz and classical music intersect and influence each other and featured internationally known pianists Leon Fleisher and Stefan Karlsson as special guest artists.

Twenty-two students from across the United States took part in the piano competitions; high school and college students in classical music with a college competition in jazz. They were selected on the basis of performances and letters of recommendation.

Prizes included substantial cash awards, as well as performing opportunities.

The winners include:

College jazz competition

First Place: William Alexson, who is working toward his Commercial Music degree at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. After taking five years of classical piano lessons, Alexson learned to play jazz in high school through self-study. His favorite pianists include Bill Evans, Kenny Barron, Roberto Fonseca, and Michel Camilo. See Alexon’s website:

Second Place: Diego Lyra Medeiros, of Recife, Brazil, who is studying jazz at WVU as part of an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Brazil Higher Education Consortium. Medeiros, who is studying with a Fine Arts scholarship in the WVU School of Music, was invited to perform for three years in the West Virginia Wine and Jazz Festival and he also has a private studio of 15 students.

College classical competition

First Place: Alvin Zhu attends the Juilliard School. He is the first American to win The Young Steinway Artists award. As a young pianist, he has already played with many orchestras and has won numerous piano competitions, including first place in the Aikens-Cadman Competition, the Pittsburgh Concert Society Young Artist Audition, and the Ann Keller Young Soloist Competition. See Zhu’s website at:

Second Place: Samuel Gingher is currently a doctoral student in piano performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He won first prize in the Brevard Music Festival Solo Piano competition 2012, the Lagrange Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Concerto Competition, was the only American semi-finalist in the Heida Hermanns International Piano Competition, and was the winner of the 21st Century Piano Commission Competition at UIUC.

High school classical competition

First Place: Richard Shin attends the Gilman School. He started studying piano at the age of four and has won many local, state, national and international competitions. He will perform in Germany as a part of the Bechstein Young Professionals concert series this summer.

Second Place: Hannah Che, who is homeschooled and started playing the piano at age 5. Her awards include Pittsburgh Concert Society winner, Butler Symphony Concerto Competition winner and first prize in the Duquesne Young Artist Competition. See Che’s bio:

The judges for the competitions included Yeeha Chiu, Steinway artist and Hong Kong-born pianist, currently of Pittsburgh, high School classical semi-final; Gerald Lee, associate professor of piano at West Liberty University, college classical semi-final; and David Allen Wehr, the Jack W. Geltz Distinguished Professor of Piano at Duquesne University, for both classical finals. The Jazz judge for the college competition semi-final was Neil Donato, jazz and classical pianist of southeast Michigan, and judge of the final round was Stefan Karlsson, internationally known jazz pianist and faculty member at the University of North Texas.

The WVU Keyboard Festival and Competition was made possible through the West Virginia University Extended Learning Awards Summer 2012 Grants.

The awards are made possible through the generous support of the WVU College of Creative Arts, Dr. Jeffrey Jackson, Patricia Neeper of the Steinway Piano Gallery, Pittsburgh, and the Margaret Butman Fund.

“The Festival topic caught the imagination of many people,” said Dr. Christine Kefferstan, professor of piano at WVU and one of the coordinators of the event. “From July 2-6, the Creative Arts Center was a really ‘cool’ place where people had a wonderful time listening to the range of styles and the diversity of performers. The many concerts and opportunities for participation in clinics, master classes, and workshops brought about a tremendous amount of positive energy–not to mention smiles!

She also quoted Qing Zhang, parent of college classical competition winner Alvin Zhu, who said, “Not only have you created an annual festival (hopefully), you have made it so magical and unforgettable for everyone who was a part of it.”



CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts

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