Weeklong competition ends, winner set to debut

Dr. David Ackiss, professor of English, helps junior winner Wenbin Jin with his tie before the MSIPC Gala Winners Concert April 24. Ackiss was Jin´s host for his stay in Joplin for the biennial competition.

Special to The Chart

Dr. David Ackiss, professor of English, helps junior winner Wenbin Jin with his tie before the MSIPC Gala Winners Concert April 24. Ackiss was Jin´s host for his stay in Joplin for the biennial competition.

With a gala ending to the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition, Vivian León, director of MSIPC, is eagerly awaiting the Oct. 4 trip to Carnegie Hall.

On April 24, MSIPC wrapped up its weeklong activities with the Gala Winners Concert. Eighteen-year-old Jie Chen from China took home the grand prize of $10,000 plus a debut recital in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, in the senior division. Chen has previously won first prize at the Piano Arts National Competition, third prize at the Sanremo Classico International Piano Competition in Italy and second prize at the Kingsville International Piano Competition, college division, in 2003.

Chen said she felt honored to win the competition.

“I was very honored,” she said. “It was a total enjoyable experience.”

Chen said competitions help her with her piano studies.

“It’s like an enzyme for my studies,” she said.

The first prize winner of the junior division and recipient of $3,000 was Wenbin Jin, 16, from China. Prior to his win at MSIPC, Jin had won first prize at the Toyama Asian Piano Competition Youth Group in Beijing in 2003 and first prize at the Mi Duo Cup Piano Grade Competition, China/France in 2002.

Jin said he could not believe he was in the competition against the other competitors and that he won his division.

“It was exciting,” Jin said. “Some of the other competitors were very good.”

León said the winners of the competition were the ones who impressed the judges.

“Everyone that was selected to come were winners; it was very, very hard to get in to the roster of 37,” she said. “They are really outstanding pianists, every one of them. The ones that actually won prizes were the cream of the crop.”

She said MSIPC is set up to where everyone gets a fair chance of winning. The judges know the competitors only by number during the competition; no names or biographical information is given to them.

“In performance you can have a good day and you can have a bad day,” she said. “On a good day, every one of them could be a prize winner.”

León said the competition was one of the best in MSIPC history.

“It was fabulous,” she said. “I think we heard the best music. I think the competitors really settled in and made a lot of friends. They had a wonderful time with their host families.”

León said the competitors talked “highly of how well they were taken care of and how they have a support system while they are here.”

“It was just a good experience for everyone involved with it,” she said.

León said during the reception held after the winners concert she had competitors telling her “Mrs. León, two more years and I’m coming back.”

“They would not have said that if they did not have a good time,” she said.

Other winners included third prize in the senior division to Sandro Russo, 28 from Italy who received $3,000. There were three honorable mentions awarded in the senior division. Those receiving honorable mention nods were each given $2,000. Those winners were Yevgeniy Milyavskiy, 19 from USA/Belarus; Ruzha Semova, 27 from Bulgaria and Hui-hsin Tseng, 30 from Taiwan.

León said the awarding of first and third without a second place winner is not an uncommon practice in competitions. She said the judges wanted to make a distinction between the pianists.

“In this case, they felt like the first prize winner was so exceptional, they felt they wanted to show how exceptional she was,” León said. “That there was nobody right next to her.”

Chenyang Xu, 16, from China, took second prize and $2,000 in the junior division. Sichen Ma, 17, from China, placed third and received $1,500. Soo Yeon Cho, 16, and Matthew Graybill, 17, both from the United States, took honorable mention and $1,200 apiece.

Now that the competition is over, León is looking toward the trip to Carnegie Hall this October.

“I have already, quite a list of people wanting to go to Carnegie Hall to see this girl play,” she said. “It’s going to be a fun time for us to be represented up there.”

León said one of the highlights for her on the Carnegie Hall trips taken in years past, is when walking around the side of the hall and seeing the University name on the marquee.

“It’s a big thrill for us to see ‘Missouri Southern presents,'” she said.