Local Pianists Win Top Awards At 2023 State Competition

2023 State Honors Piano Competition First Prize winners Jinheon Kim, Elizabeth Hsu and Hannah Li. Courtesy/LAMTA


Three pianists from the Northeast District I of the Professional Music Teachers of New Mexico (PMTNM) were awarded First Prize in their respective levels at the 2023 State Honors Piano Competition, which is held annually.

Hannah Li of Los Alamos was awarded first prize in Level Two (ages 10 and 11) for her performance of Frederic Chopin’s Grand Valse Brillante. This waltz is one of Chopin’s most beloved compositions, for it shows technical brilliance and graceful charm. Li studies with Los Alamos teacher Aejin Chang. She is a 6th grader at Mountain Elementary school, and also enjoys reading, writing, painting, and ice skating on top of her musical studies. 

Also from Los Alamos, Jinheon Kim was awarded first prize in Level Five (ages 16-17) for his performance of Frederic Chopin’s Etude Op. 25 no. 11, nicknamed “Winterwind”. It is a highly virtuosic work, and its dizzying right-hand technique and majestic left hand-theme makes it a perennial audience favorite. Kim studies with Los Alamos teacher Dr. Haewon Yang. He is a senior at Los Alamos High School who plays the violin as well as being an avid swimmer.

Kim was also presented with the Byrdis W. Danfelser Memorial Piano Scholarship by the PMTNM, which is awarded annually to a piano student in New Mexico who demonstrates talent, dedication, and musical accomplishments in their application. This scholarship was established in memory of Mrs. Danfelser, who founded the PMTNM in 1950.

Taos student Elizabeth Hsu was awarded first prize in Level One (ages nine and below) for her performance of Aaron Copland’s The Cat and the Mouse. This is an American work written in 1921, which uses the entire keyboard and shows great contrasts in character and dynamics. Hsu studies with Taos teacher Kim Bakkum and is a 4th grader at Taos Charter School. When she is not playing the piano, she enjoys singing, dancing, swimming, skiing, and playing tennis.

The State Honors Competition was held Nov. 11 at the Berna Facio Professional Development Center in Albuquerque. Two distinguished pianists, Dr. William Lipke of Adams State University and Dr. Igor Lipinski of University of Oklahoma, served as judges for the competition.

To be a competitor for the PMTNM State Honors Competition, each contestant must have received first place in one of New Mexico’s six districts. First place winners from each District Competition advance to the State Competition.

The Northeast District I, which includes Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and Taos, held their District Competition on October 21st. Two other pianists won first place in their age divisions and advanced to the State Competition, and both also were awarded prizes. Julia Lee Robel from Los Alamos, student of Juanita Madland, was awarded Honorary Mention in Level Three (ages 12-13) for her performance of C.P.E. Bach’s Solfeggieto in C minor. In Level Four (14 and 15 years old), Matthea Fung from Los Alamos, student of Wendy Ge, was awarded Third Prize with her performance of the Fantasie Impromptu by Frederic Chopin.

Although the Honors Competition is held for the members of the PMTNM organization, non-member teachers may enter students for an extra fee. All instruments and voice types are encouraged to apply for the Honors Competition, which is held annually every fall for pre college and college students. For more information, please visit losalamosmusicteachers.org.


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