Behind the Scenes: Peabody’s Yale Gordon Competition Reply

For two days last week, Peabody put on one of the most musically demanding student competitions held all year – the Yale Gordon Competition. Eight Peabody piano students competed in the preliminary round from 10:00 am to 3:50 pm on Wednesday, during which each was given 30 minutes to play selected works from of a 50-minute program that they prepared with their studio teacher. The Friedberg Hall stage door opens and a young woman appears to address the jury. She introduces each contestant by number only – that’s Chelsea Buyalos, the competition coordinator and Peabody staff member. The blank stage is set with nothing but a grand piano. The three judges – Alexander Korsantia, a piano faculty artist from the New England Conservatory; Sandra Shapiro, a Preparatory and Continuing Education faculty artist from the Cleveland Institute of Music; and Ivo Kaltchev, head of piano division of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at the Catholic University of America – periodically interrupt the performers to ask them to play a different work from their program. A small audience of about a dozen students and a handful of Conservatory faculty artists watch the competition with the house lights up, presumably for the jury to see musical scores and take notes from their seats in the orchestra section.

On Thursday, six pianists are chosen to play in the finals.  Each will perform a full concerto. The students perform from 9:00 am to 1:05 pm. After all the contestants have played, the jury work with Ms. Buyalos to tabulate the scores. They judge the contestants on musicianship, technical fluency, and control, among other attributes. For this competition, the tabulation process lasts less than an hour. Ms. Buyalos returns to her office to enjoy the best part of working the competition – calling the winners and hearing their reactions. She says the competitions showcase our students and reflect the immense talent of our student body. It would not be considered unusual to practice 8-10 hours a day to prepare for the competition.

This year’s winners are: Brian Lin, a doctoral student of Yong Hi Moon, was awarded the third prize of $500. Yi Chen Feng, a sophomore in the studio of Boris Slutsky, was awarded the second prize of $750. Xiaohui Yang, a doctoral student of Boris Slutsky, was awarded the first prize of $1,500 and will play Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21, with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra during the 2017-18 academic year. In addition, the winner will perform a recital on the Shriver Hall Concert Series’ Discovery Series and Also, a performance on the Music in the Great Hall series.

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