Nicholas Mozyrsky, left, Julia Chen and Dr. Madeline J. Williamson. Courtesy photo
The Annual Piano Competition for the Professional Music Teachers of New Mexico (PMTNM) was held Saturday, Nov. 11, on the campus of the Albuquerque Academy.
Two of Los Alamos’ finest young pianists emerged victorious by winning the highest piano awards in the State: Julia Chen, age 13, was awarded First Prize in Level III (ages 12-13) for her stellar performance of Desperate Measures: 12 Variations on a Theme of Paganini by American composer Robert Muczynski (1929-2010) and Nicholas Mozyrsky, age 14, was awarded Second Prize in Level IV (ages 14-15) for his powerful-yet- pensive performance of Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No. 1 of Fréderic Chopin (1810-1849).
This year, First Prize in Levels I, II, and V were taken by students in Albuquerque. The five levels of pre-collegiate competition are determined by age. To become eligible to compete for their highly coveted awards at State, each contestant must have first won their respective age category in one of NM’s Six Districts. Then, the winners from each District Competition advance to the State.
Therefore, each Prize winner at the State level can certainly be considered among the top 5-6 young pianists in New Mexico. Both Julia and Nicholas felt very fortunate for having the opportunity to compete at this level, and even more so, truly appreciated their winning even more after interacting with and hearing their competitors at the State level. Two distinguished piano artists judged the competition.
Argentinian pianist Dr. Oscar Macchioni is on the faculty of the University of Texas-El Paso and Composer/Pianist Michael Mauldin has a long, distinguished career in New Mexico. Throughout the U.S., less than half-of- one-percent of all students studying piano ever prepare for a competition, which takes continued dedication, commitment, andperseverance through entering many competitions to eventually become a winner. The competition concludes with an evening Winners Recital and an Award Ceremony, with students receiving their trophies, certificates, and cash awards, and valuable written comments from the professional judges.
Concert pianist Jon Nakamatsu, affiliated with the Van Cliburn Competition has famously talked about “losing far more competitions than I ever won.” However, Nakamatsu says playing in competitions earlier in life can prepare a pianist to have the presence of mind needed to compete as an adult.
“All of us who did competitions [in our 20s] were also in competitions as youngsters,” Nakamatsu says. “It may be pressure filled but, at the same time, the pressure is different. And I find that there is a certain kind of courage that you have as a youth that you might not have as you get older in some ways, simply because you just don’t know to be scared.”
Both students selected their pieces with their teacher and must perform the same work at State that was entered at the District Level. In both instances, Julia and Nicholas have been working on their pieces for a full year. Yet during that same time, each student also learned a much larger body of piano music from throughout many music periods, not only their competition works.
Julia Chen’s parents are Haidan Yan and Houtong Chen and Nicholas Mozyrsky is the son of Natalyia and Dima Mozyrsky. Julia attends Los Alamos Middle School and Nicholas is a freshman in high school. Ironically, both young pianists are also outstanding, State-Winning Athletes, with Julia having won the State of NM in Swimming last year and Nicholas, as Captain of the Rush Soccer Team. Both winners are the students of Dr. Madeline Williamson of Los Alamos Piano Studio. Williamson is an active member of the city’s professional Independent Music Teachers organization, Los Alamos Music Teachers Association (LAMTA), and is also the PMTNM Vice-President for the Northeast District of Los Alamos, Taos, Las Vegas, and Santa Fe.
Only students of accredited, professional LAMTA teachers are eligible to enter the various rounds of district and state competition in NM. In order to be a member of LAMTA, teachers must also be members of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) and State (PMTNM) Professional organizations. These three organizations are responsible for organizing and funding the District and State competitions as well as providing year-round student concerts, a State level achievement program, master classes for student enrichment, and the Sunday Musicale Community Recitals.
For anyone wishing to support such essential activities for other outstanding-and- worthy piano students throughout Los Alamos who study with LAMTA member teachers, please consider LAMTA in your annual generosity by making you tax-deductible donation to: Los Alamos Music Teachers Association, C/O Ms. Mamie Farish, Secretary/Treasurer of LAMTA, 34 Grand Canyon Drive, Los Alamos, NM 87544. All contributions are fully tax deductible.