|BGSU student Yushan Sui
listens to Robert Levin’s comments as part of a master class Friday at BGSU. The class was the first
event in the David D. Dubois Piano Festival and Competition (Photo: J.D.
The weather outside on Saturday may have been frightful, but sounds inside Kobacker Hall on the Bowling
Green State University campus were certainly delightful.
Seventeen high school pianists, the semifinalist in the inaugural David Dubois Piano Competition,
delivered finely honed performances of music by the classical masters, Bach, Beethoven, Haydn and Liszt,
Performances that had people wondering how the judges would winnow the field to the finalists who would
play Sunday, and then decide who would receive the top prizes.
The competition was one dimension of a program supported by the David D. Dubois Trust intended to enhance
the piano program in the BGSU College of Musical Arts.
The college was chosen as the beneficiary of the endowment through a competitive process. Bob Swinehart,
a Dubois trustee, said 17 schools applied for the endowment.
BGSU’s application "just came to the top," Swinehart said. There was "no question"
that it was the best.
Swinehart said the trustees were impressed by the range of activities included.
In addition to the competition, the festival included a master class for university students with pianist
and scholar Robert Levin followed by a talk on Mozart. Levin also performed a Festival Series concert
Saturday. Funding for undergraduate pianists to do community outreach and attend summer music festivals
will be implemented later.
The trust was funding the competition. The pianists were vying for $3,000 for the top prize and $2,000
and $1,000 for second and third.
Those generous amounts helped attract a talented pool of pianists, said Dr. Laura Melton, the BGSU
faculty member who coordinated the application process and the event itself.
Competitors came from as far as South Carolina and Pittsburgh.
Brooke Evans, an 18-year-old Findlay pianist who studies with Melton, said playing in the competition
"was a lot of pressure, but it’s exciting. It gives you something to work toward."
Cathy Li, 16, traveled from the Pittsburgh area with her family to participate on the recommendation of
her teacher. On Sunday morning she said she was "really surprised" to have made the cut as one
of eight finalists. "I played one of my pieces a little too fast," she said of her performance
in the first round.
Regardless of how well she did she felt the event was a good experience.
Her father Hong Li said he tells his daughter to relax. "That’s how you play well."
He said he and his wife remain relaxed as well.
Not so for all parents. Tom Causby drove up with his daughter, Naomi, and wife, Suzie, for the event.
"Of course, we’re nervous," he said. "You just want your child to play perfectly."
"We can barely breathe," Mrs. Causby added.
Finalist Naomi Causby, 16, said her teacher suggested it would be a good place to try out the pieces she
would use for college auditions.
Causby has set her sights high – Eastman School of Music, Juilliard and Curtis Institute.
She’s been working on the Bach, Beethoven and Liszt pieces for about a year, and said "I played the
best I could."
Dr. Robert Satterlee, one of the judges for the event, said there are elements of style and technique
that are objective
"But on another level, it’s how they speak to you," he said, "and that’s subjective."
The judges for the semifinal round were BGSU faculty members Satterlee, Melton, Dr. Thomas Rosenkranz and
Dr. Solungga Fang-Tzu Liu. They were joined on Sunday by Alvin Chow, of Oberlin Conservatory, to judge
The winner was Arianna Korting, 16, Gates Mills. Second was Brook Zhang, 16, Gahanna, and third place was
split between Causby and Danni Feng, 17, Lasalle, Ontario, Canada.
Honorable mentions went to Iris Jang, 16, Westerville, and Heather Shen, 15, Birmingham, Mich.
Other finalists were Li and Miguel Morrissey, 16, a student at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan
from Port Charlotte, Fla.
Two local musicians were semifinalists Michael Lenahan, 16, Rossford, and Amy Fan, 15, Bowling Green.
"It was very close," Melton said of the judges’ final decision. "Definitely there was a
group at the top. They all played at a very high level."
As she told several competitors, on another day the rankings could have been different.
The event also showed, Melton said, that the competition can draw pianists from afar, but also that this
area has a wealth of talent.
The winner said she was pleased with her performance. Though she does get nervous before playing, those
nerves are quelled.
"I enjoyed bringing the music out," Korting said. She loves to play for an audience, and
"I think of the judges as an audience. I want them to have the same feeling that an audience would
She plans to go on to a conservatory and then a performing career.
After the competition, Dubois trustee Swinehart had his own judgment. "It was a spectacular weekend
of piano. I was amazed at the ability these youngsters have."
As to giving the endowment to BGSU, he said: "We made the right choice."