Teens earn scholarships, cash at annual piano competition
by Luanne Williams

While hundreds of Wingate alumni — more than a few with degrees in music — were headed to Homecoming on Saturday morning, some potential future alums were busy inside the Batte Center, earning scholarships and cash awards. 

Hannah Jen won first place in the high-school division of the third annual Wingate Piano Competition. A homeschooled ninth-grader from Matthews, Jen studies with Connie Beach-Hillard. She played Piano Sonata K by W.A. Mozart, Nocturne in E Minor by Frederic Chopin and Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum by Claude Debussy. 

Calvin Chen, a Carmel Christian School freshman, took second place with Gigue in D Major by Johann Ludwig Krebs, Sonatina in E flat Major by Jan Ladislav Dussek and Romance without Words by Gabriel Faure. Chen is from Matthews and studies with Phyllis Teague.

High school contestants were asked to perform three contrasting pieces selected from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary repertoire. Jen and Chen earned $21,000 per year music scholarships for use in future piano studies at Wingate University, and Jen received an offer to perform in the 2020 "Decades Recital" at Wingate next spring. 

Cash prizes ($300 for Jen and $200 for Chen) were also awarded, thanks to Miller Piano Company. Edwin Miller began his career in piano manufacturing in Ohio in 1939. His four sons — Ken, Tom, Ron and Don — followed suit and moved the business to Charlotte in 1978, where Ken still leads Miller Piano Company today.

In the middle-school category, in which contestants were asked to play two pieces, Ellen Harper of Davidson, an eighth-grader at the Cannon School, won first place with her renditions of Mozart’s Sonata K570 in B flat major and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Etude Tableau. Her piano teachers are Natalya Vorobyeva and Dmitri Vorobiev. 

Second place went to Elijah Chen, a sixth-grader at Carmel Christian and a student of Phyllis Teague. He played Sonatina in G Major by Dussek and Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1. Chen is from Matthews.

Harper and Chen received cash prizes ($300 for first and $200 for second), sponsored by The Charlotte Area Foundation for Music and Art, and Harper was invited to perform in the 2020 “Decades Recital.” 

“We feel that the Wingate Piano Competition is a wonderful opportunity for students and fulfills a component of our mission to ‘support young and emerging musicians’ through community involvement and with collaborative efforts alongside other organizations who share a similar vision,” said Deborah Neuhs, the group’s co-founder and president.

Like Miller Piano Company, The Charlotte Area Foundation for Music and Art has supported Wingate’s Piano Competition since it was initiated three years ago by professors David Brooks and Annie Stankovic.

To learn more about studying piano at Wingate, visit the music page of the website and click on Piano.