Students play for scholarship in UVU piano competition

2013-03-25T00:22:00Z 2013-03-25T12:25:33Z Students play for scholarship in UVU piano competitionBarbara Christiansen - Daily Herald Daily Herald
March 25, 2013 12:22 am  • 

OREM -- Four pianists were awarded for their hard work and talent at the Rebecca Marriott Champion UVU Piano Competition Saturday.

It was the third year for the event, which included a $5,000 scholarship for a UVU student. Last year, a community division was added to the competition, so it wasn't limited to UVU. They joined those three students to perform at the annual announcement concert.

Juyoun Lee, a UVU student from South Korea, captured the top slot among UVU students. The sophomore received $5,000 for her efforts.

"I feel like I am still dreaming," she said after the concert. "It is a good experience. I am learning how to get over the anxiety and nervousness."

She said she hopes to follow in the footsteps of the competition's organizer.

"I want to be like my professor, Dr. Hilary Demske," she said. "I want to teach piano to students."

Champion, who endowed the competition, offered praise for Demske.

"I am very proud of all the students and the work they have done to get here," she said, indicating it was more just winning. "It is about becoming a better musician and all the students did that. I attribute the success of our program to Dr. Hilary Demske."

Champion drew a comparison to her music and that of the students. She learned to play the piano on her grandmother's prized Steinway grand piano when she was 8 years old. She said she excitedly told her grandmother when she was able to play "Chopsticks."

"These students -- in junior high and elementary school -- can play pieces that I never even dreamt about trying to play," she said.

Champion said she had the idea for the competition a number of years ago.

"Someone told me that a renowned young piano artist, Hilary Demske, had just been recruited to the UVU faculty, bringing an incredible resume and a wealth of talent," she wrote for the program notes. "It occurred to me that with all the superb piano teachers at UVU, why not start a student competition, encourage the best piano students to compete and offer a generous endowed scholarship?"

In the division for ages 6-10, John Zhao of Midvale took first place and $150. The junior division winner for those 11-14 was Junhao Wang of Sandy. He received $300. The winner of the senior division for ages 15-18, with a $500 award, was Mariah Sam of Vernal. There were other cash awards for second and third places.

"I am 15 now, and I have been studying piano since I was 4," Sam said. "I absolutely want to study piano in college. I was excited to win. I worked so hard. I have been practicing this song since summer."

UVU President Matthew S. Holland attended the competition.

"I was absolutely blown away tonight," he said. "What performances by these young people. UVU became in 2010 an all-Steinway school. The mark of a serious institution of higher learning is how it takes the arts very seriously."

The competition has evolved in the three years of its existence.

In addition to the top five UVU students competing, there were more than 50 community musicians from across the state.

"Last year was the first year with the community," she said. "They didn't perform then. The competition is evolving."

"We are pleased that the interest, prestige and participation in this competition continues to grow," Donna Fairbanks, chairwoman of the UVU Department of Music, said. "Dr. Hilary Demske, piano area coordinator at Utah Valley University, has done magnificent work organizing the event and preparing UVU students for the university level of the competition. There was an increased focus this year on the community portion of the competition. We hope to see further increase in community involvement in coming years."

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-- Barbara Christiansen covers news in American Fork ˜ government, schools, residents, business and more.
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