Los Alamos Young Pianists Sweep State Competition

From left, Music Teacher Dr. Madeline Williamson, pianist Sruthi Garimella, pianist Jennifer Wang, pianist Yunseo Kim and Music Teacher Janna Warren. Photo by Douglas Bailey/Albuquerque


The Annual Piano Competition for the Professional Music Teachers of New Mexico (PMTNM) was held Saturday, Nov. 12, on the campus of the Albuquerque Academy.

Out of five levels of pre-collegiate performance determined by age, three young Los Alamos pianists emerged victorious by winning the highest awards:

  • Yunseo Kim;
  • Sruthi Garimella; and
  • Jennifer Wang.

The three young pianists were awarded First Prize for their performances in Levels III, IV and V, respectively, where winners of Levels I and II were awarded to students from Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

In order to compete for their highly coveted awards, each contestant at the State must have first won their category in one of New Mexico’s Six Districts. The winners from each District Competition advance to the State. Therefore, each First Prize winner is likely to have emerged from more than 100 young pianists throughout the state, so the three young Los Alamos winners felt very fortunate to have been awarded their prizes from the panel of two Judges.

Nationally, less than half-of-one-percent of all students studying piano ever prepare for a competition.   

The Nov. 12 competition was followed by 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.

Each student and her teacher selected her own choice of repertoire to enter the competition and must perform the same work at State that was entered at the District Level.

Yunseo Kim, age 12, won Level III for her performance of Claude Debussy’s much-loved and elegant, Arabesque. Yunseo is a sixth-grade student at Mountain Elementary. Her parents are Hyunjoo Kang and Yongho Kim and her teacher is Janna Warren. 

Sruthi Garimella, age 14 and winner for Level IV, also performed French repertoire with three of Francis Poulenc’s “Fifteen Improvisations,” each one as an Hommage to a special individual. Those works were Hommage á Marliave (a famous French, woman pianist of his time); Hommage á Schubert; and to the great French Cabaret chanteuse, Hommage á Edith Piaf. Sruthi is the daughter of Madhavi and Rao Garimella and is in her first year of Los Alamos High School. 

Jennifer Wang, a senior at LAHS, won the highest Level V with her performance of Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch’s Poems of the Sea: Waves and At Sea, a composition that is both virtuosic and tender. Sruthi and Jennifer are students of Dr. Madeline Williamson of Los Alamos Piano Studio. Jennifer’s parents are Minhua Li and Yongqiang Wang.

Janna Warren and Dr. Madeline Williamson are both active members of the city’s sole professional Independent Music Teachers organization, Los Alamos Music Teachers Association (LAMTA), with Ms. Warren the current president. LAMTA is a non-profit 501-c3 organization dedicated to providing performance and musical growth opportunities for students of member teachers. Only students of accredited, professional LAMTA teachers are eligible to enter the various rounds of district and state competition in New Mexico. In order to be a member of LAMTA, teachers must also be members of the National (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 community concerts.

For anyone wishing to support such activities for Los Alamos piano students, please consider LAMTA in your annual generosity by making you tax-deductible donation to: Los Alamos Music Teachers Association, C/O  Ms. Ellen Scudder, Secretary-Treasurer, LAMTA, 2100 35th St., Los Alamos, 87544.