2016 Sejong Music Competition Judges

Primary and Elementary divisions: Annie Hsiao | Vakhtang Kodanashvili
Junior and Senior divisions: Marta Aznavoorian | Wael Farouk | Svetlana Belsky
Primary and Elementary divisions: Kate Carter | Amy Goldberg
Junior and Senior divisions: Nisanne Howell | Simon Michal | Mathias Tacke


Annie Hsiao

piano primary and elementary

Annie Hsiao holds a Doctor of Music degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from Northwestern University. Her research included rhythmic analysis in Russian piano etudes, flexibility of tempo rubato, and Lisztian piano technique. She received bachelor and master degrees in piano performance from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she also earned a masters degree in music theory. Hsiao received numerous academic and piano performance awards during her college and graduate years, including the University Library Award, Teaching Excellence Award, and Piano Division Achievement Award. Under the guidance of Kenneth Drake, David Kaiserman, and Alan Chow, she has performed in several recitals and has participated in numerous piano competitions. Her major pedagogy teachers include Frances Larimer, Marcia Bosits, and Mary Beth Molenaar. Dr. Hsiao currently teaches private and group lessons in the Music Academy and keyboard skills classes in the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University.

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Vakhtang Kodanashvili

piano primary and elementary

Vakhtang Kodanashvili made his New York City debut at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in 2001. This was a result of his victory at The World Piano Competition in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. He is the prize winner of several international competitions: The Hellam Young Artist Competition in Springfield, Missouri, USA; The Nena Wideman Piano Competition in Shreveport, Louisiana, USA; The Bartok-Kabalevsky-Prokofiev International Piano Competition in Radford, Virginia, USA; 8th International Piano Competition “Spanish Composers” in Las Rozas, Spain; The 20th New Orleans International Piano Competition, Louisiana, USA.

In 1995 Mr. Kodanashvili moved to the United States and joined world renowned Alexander Toradze Piano Studio at Indiana University South Bend. As a member of the studio Vakhtang frequently performs throughout the world, appearing in such prestigious music festivals as Ravinia, Hollywood Bowl, Sandpoint, Edinburgh, Ruhr, Stresa, Ravenna, Rotterdam, Salzburg and many others.

Mr. Kodanashvili has performed with numerous symphony orchestras, including South Bend, Elkhart, La Porte, Springfield, Spokane, Kingsport, Louisiana, Tbilisi, Orchestra Giovanile “Luigi Cherubini”, Post-Classical Ensemble, Mariinsky, BBC Philharmonic.

Native of Tbilisi, Georgia, Vakhtang Kodanashvili began his musical education at the age of six attending Z. Paliashvili Georgian School of Music and studied with Marina Gelashvili. While in school he regularly performed in Georgia and other republics of the former Soviet Union and had his orchestral debut at the age of nine. He appeared as a soloist with national orchestras and his performances were frequently broadcasted on television and radio.

Vakhtang earned both his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in piano performance at Indiana University South Bend and Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance at Michigan State University College of Music.

Currently Vakhtang Kodanashvili serves on faculty at DePaul University School of Music.


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Marta Aznavoorian

piano junior and senior

Marta Aznavoorian has performed to critical acclaim throughout the world as orchestral soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. A Chicago native, she has performed in her hometown’s most prestigious venues and tours extensively throughout the world. She made her professional debut at the age of 13 performing Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor K.491 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Center in four concerts of their series. She has won over audiences appearing as soloist with orchestras internationally including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Sydney Conservatory Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Chicago Civic Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, San Angelo Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Northwest Indiana Symphony, and the New World Symphony which resulted from a personal invitation from Michael Tilson Thomas who also was her conductor.

Aznavoorian has worked with such renowned conductors such as the Late Sir George Solti, Michael Tilson Thomas, Lukas Foss, Henry Mazer, Francesco Milioto, Kirk Muspratt among others. She has won numerous awards throughout her life, including top prize in the Stravinsky International Competition where she was also lauded the special prize for best interpretation for the commissioned contemporary work. As a recipient of the 1990 Level 1 award in the National Foundation for the Arts Recognition and Talent search, Ms. Aznavoorian became a Presidential Scholar and was invited to the White House and to perform as soloist at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Aznavoorian is founding member of the Lincoln Trio which Fanfare Magazine has labeled as “one of the hottest young trios in the business.” The Grammy nominated trio tours regularly throughout the world, and just celebrated their most recent Cedille records release of all the chamber works of Spanish composer, Joachim Turina.

In strong demand as a chamber musician, Ms. Aznavoorian has worked with such artists as the Pacifica Quartet, Julian Rachlin and friends, Ilya Kaler, Colin Carr, Roberto Diaz, Miriam Fried and many others. She has performed as soloist and collaborator in many festivals including Tanglewood Festival, Aspen Festival, Caramoor Festival, Hornby Island, Green Lake Music Festival, and she will be making her 8th straight season appearance at the Ravinia Festival in 2016.

A champion and lover of new music, Ms. Aznavoorian has worked with the worlds leading composers including William Bolcom, Osvaldo Golijov, Jennifer Higdon, Shulamit Ran, Augusta Read Thomas, Joan Tower, Lera Auerbach, Pierre Jalbert, Stacy Garrop, Laura Schwendinger, and Marta Ptaszynska and continues to collaborate with several of the most innovative composers of our time.

Aznavoorian records for Artec Label and extensively for Cedille Records and has multiple recordings with her trio including the 2013 NAXOS release of Annelies, based on the Diary of Anne Frank.

A student of the renowned teacher Menahem Pressler, Aznavoorian received her bachelor degree at Indiana University where she was also awarded the prestigious Artist Diploma. Other influential teachers include Lev Vlassenko, Evelyn Brancart, Patricia Zander and Carolyn McCracken.

She continued on to get her Masters degree from New England Conservatory where she studied with the late Patricia Zander. A passionate teacher, Aznavoorian has given masterclasses at several schools and Universities throughout the United States and abroad, and is on faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago and Artist in Residence at the Merit School of Music in Chicago, and is on Adjunct Faculty at the DePaul University School of Music.

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Wael Farouk

piano junior and senior

Egyptian-American pianist Wael Farouk has performed on five continents in such venues as the White Hall in St. Petersburg, Schumann’s house in Leipzig, Chicago’s Symphony Center, and Carnegie Hall in New York, where his solo debut performance in 2013 was described as "absolutely masterful." In the 2013-2014 season, Dr. Farouk gave a five-recital series featuring the complete solo works of Rachmaninoff, a feat the Chicago Tribune hailed as "historical" in a front-page article.

Praised as a "formidable and magnificent pianist" by the New York Concert Review, Dr. Farouk has had an extensive performing career. He commands a vast repertoire of more than 70 concertos and 60 solo programs, spanning from Scarlatti to Bolcom and including the complete piano works of J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff.

Dr. Farouk has appeared as a soloist with such orchestras as the North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the Saint-Etienne National Orchestra, the Academy of the Arts Orchestra, the Manhattan Symphony, and the Cairo Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 concertos, including the Egyptian premieres of Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3, Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, and Prokofiev Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2, and 3.

Dr. Farsouk has performed with numerous conductors, including Christoph Mueller, Steven Lloyd, Patrick Fournilier, and Philippe Entremont. In 2004, Dr. Farouk was given the honor of playing on Tchaikowsky's piano—the first pianist to do so since Vladimir Horowitz.

Russian Portraits, Dr. Farouk’s debut solo album, was released on the Carlock Records label in 2013. The all-Russian album has drawn praise for its musical beauty and virtuosity. David Dubal has described the album as one that "gives us familiar repertoire played with a new light and freshness. Here is piano playing that brings chills to the flesh, performed with a rare virtuoso technique."

Upcoming performance projects Dr. Farouk is undertaking include the complete piano solo and chamber works of Brahms and Beethoven, and a rarely heard performance of the monumental Busoni piano concerto, scheduled for the 2016-2017 season. Additionally, Dr. Farouk will be completing the Rachmaninoff cycle of five piano concertos, of which he has been performing one each year.

Dr. Farouk joined the piano faculty at Carthage College in 2016, bringing more than a decade of experience teaching undergraduate and graduate-level piano students, first as a teaching assistant at the Cairo Conservatory, Converse College, and Manhattan School of Music, and then as a member of the artist faculty at Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University beginning in 2012.

Dr. Farouk frequently judges competitions and delivers masterclasses and has been invited to join the artist faculty roster at the prestigious Puigcerdà Music Festival, which includes such artists as pianist Oxana Yablonskaya and cellist-conductor Dmitry Yablonsky.

Dr. Farouk founded the Carthage Faculty Trio alongside cellist Allegra Montanari and violinist Andrew Williams. The trio will present the entire chamber music of Brahms in the 2017-2018 season, which will include the piano and violin sonatas, as well as the piano and cello sonatas.

Dr. Farouk holds degrees in piano performance from Rutgers University (Doctor of Musical Arts, with Daniel Epstein), Chicago College of Performing Arts (Artist Diploma, with Solomon Mikowsky), Manhattan School of Music (Professional Studies Diploma, with Solomon Mikowsky), Converse College (Master of Music, with Douglas Weeks), Catholic University of America (Fulbright Fellowship, with Marilyn Neeley), and the Cairo Conservatory (Bachelor of Music, with Samir Aziz, Vselod Demidov, and Edgar Davelienadze).

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Svetlana Belsky

piano junior and senior

Critically acclaimed as "a passionate pianist and scholar," Svetlana Belsky is an in-demand recitalist and chamber pianist, noted for her remarkable rapport with audiences and stylistic versatility. She has appeared in the Ukraine, Russia, Poland, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and throughout the United States. Dr. Belsky has received awards both for her performances in international piano competitions, and for her advocacy of new American music.

Her recordings have been heard on radio stations worldwide. The American Record Guide hails her most recent CD of the solo version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (Centaur, 2014) as an “extraordinary performance.” Dr. Belsky’s annotated translation of Busoni as Pianist has been nominated for an American Musicological Society award.

Following emigration from the Soviet Union, Dr. Belsky studied with Emilio Del Rosario in Chicago. She earned her Bachelor of Music summa cum laude and Master's degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, studying with Ann Schein. Later, she earned her Doctorate in Performance at the Manhattan School of Music, working with Nina Svetlanova. As the Coordinator of Piano Studies at the University of Chicago, Dr. Belsky teaches students from four continents, among many other academic responsibilities.

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Kate Carter

violin primary and elementary

Dr. Kate Carter is a versatile violinist, performing as soloist, chamber and orchestral musician. Her violin-piano duo with pianist Louise Chan was heard on the Dame Myra Hess series broadcast live on WFMT in September. The duo frequently performs in recital throughout Chicago and beyond, including Weill Hall in New York. Dr. Carter has recorded with ensembles including Camerata Chicago, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, and Ensemble Nouvelle Epoque. She frequently appears as soloist with the Elmhurst Symphony, with whom she is Assistant Concertmaster.

Dr. Carter is on the artist-teaching faculties of Lake Forest College and the Merit School of Music. She is an in-demand speaker and clinician, and will present at the ASTA national conference in spring 2017. She writes a blog about performance psychology at www.fearlessfiddler.com.

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Amy Goldberg

violin primary and elementary

Dr. Amy Goldberg has been on the string faculty of the Northwestern Music Academy since 1999, where she currently teaches violin in the pre-college division. Prior to this, she was on the violin faculty at Southwest Missouri State University and the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute. She has an extensive background in orchestral performance, including serving as concertmaster of the Chicago Civic Orchestra and the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. She has also been active as a studio musician, having recorded for numerous national television/radio commercials, documentaries, and record albums. Goldberg holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin Conservatory, where she studied the modern and Baroque violin, and she went on to Northwestern University, where she completed both her master's and doctoral degrees in violin performance.

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Nisanne Howell

violin junior and senior

Nisanne Howell graduated from the Julliard School of Music. Her teachers include Ivan Galamian and Jascha Heifetz. She joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1986.

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Simon Michal

violin junior and senior

Simon Michal was appointed to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in February 2016 by the Symphony’s Music Director Riccardo Muti.

Simon has received numerous awards from competitions including the Grand prize at both the Kocian International Violin Competition and the International Radio Competition Concertino Praga. As a winner of the 2014 Juilliard Concerto Competition Simon made his New York solo debut with the Juilliard Symphony Orchestra in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall under the baton of Fabio Luisi.

As a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player, Simon has performed at many concerts and festivals throughout Europe and Northern America including the Verbier Festival, Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Master Class Series, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Stars of tomorrow and Juilliard Chamber Fest. In 2014 Mr. Michal has been selected as a member of the first New York Philharmonic Global Academy.

Native of Bezdekov nad Metuji, Czech Republic, Simon took his first violin lessons with his father at the age of four. At 14 years old, he was admitted to the Prague Conservatoire where he studied with Jaroslav Foltyn. His other principal teachers included Charles Avsharian and Pavel Prantl. In 2015 Simon earned his Bachelor of Music degree from The Juilliard School where he studied with the former concertmaster of New York Philharmonic, Glenn Dicterow and Sylvia Rosenberg. In addition he has taken masterclasses with Boris Kuschnir, Julian Rachlin, Gil Shaham, Martin Chalifour, Robert Chen and Jorja Fleezanis. In the fall of 2015 Simon started his studies toward a Master of Music degree with Glenn Dicterow and Lisa Kim at Manhattan School of Music, but left school after one semester to join the CSO.

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Mathias Tacke

violin junior and senior

Mathias Tacke was the second violinist of the acclaimed Vermeer Quartet from 1992 until 2007. He is Professor of Violin and Chamber Music at Northern Illinois University and Guest Lecturer for String Chamber Music at Northwestern University.

With the Vermeer Quartet Mathias Tacke gave performances in practically all of the most prestigious festivals, including Tanglewood, Taos, Ravinia, South Bank, Lucerne, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and Edinburgh, to name only a few. Three of the Vermeer Quartet recordings were nominated for the Grammy Award.

Mathias Tacke appears internationally as a soloist and chamber player, performing a wide range of repertoire from the Baroque to music of our time.

From 1983-1992 Mr.Tacke was a member of the Ensemble Modern Frankfurt, one of the most important professional groups specializing in the performance of contemporary music. In this capacity he gave countless first performances, including works by most of today’s leading composers. He has made numerous recordings for such labels as Sony, ECM. Harmonia Mundi, Naxos and Cedille.

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