Judges – Photos & Bios
|MS. VIRGINIA BIGELOW
A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, Virginia Bigelow was introduced to the piano early through her musical parents. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance from Baylor University and the University of Houston. In 1986, Ms. Bigelow won the Grand Prize in the teacher division of the National Guild of Piano Teachers’ recording competition. Since 1971, she has lived and taught privately in the East Bay. Recently retired from Diablo Valley College after 20 years, she now teaches in “Ginny’s SOS Piano Studio” in Walnut Creek.
|Mr. John Boyajy
John Boyajy received Bachelor’s and Masters degrees from the Juilliard School of Music. He has appeared at Avery Fischer Hall in Lincoln Center; the Harvard Club in New York; many college campuses; the Concerts Grand and Dance Palace piano series in Marin County; the Berkeley Arts Festival; the Sebastopol Center for the Arts; and Old First Concerts and the Victorian Englander House in San Francisco. John has been guest soloist in the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto and Choral Fantasy, and the Schumann Concerto with the Bay Area Classical Harmonies Orchestra and Chorus under Andrew Chung. He returns to Old First this year both as soloist and in collaboration with mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich. In addition to public appearances, he per-forms at private homes and is often involved in fund-raisers and similar community events.
John has extensive experience working with singers and is a member of the music ministry team at All Saints Lutheran Church in Novato. He has written musical commentary online for Classical Sonoma (classicalsonoma.org) and San Francisco Classical Voice (sfcv.org). A member of the Marin County branch of the Music Teachers Association of California, John teaches piano and coaches vocalists at his San Marin studio.
|Dr. Duane A. Carroll
Music director and conductor of the Contra Costa Wind Symphony since 1981, holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from San Francisco State University and a master’s in Educational Administration from Saint Mary’s College. His Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Applied Performance is from the University of Michigan. He attended the U.S. Naval School of Music and played clarinet, saxophone, and oboe in the Third U.S. Army Band in Atlanta, Georgia, and the 4th Armored Division Band in Germany. He studied conducting with Denis deCoteau, emeritus conductor of the San Francisco Ballet. He was honored with the Diablo Symphony Association’s Distinguished Music Educator’s Award and received the prestigious Arts Recognition Award of the Arts & Culture Commission of Contra Costa County. In April 2008, Dr. Carroll was a guest conductor with the wind band of the University of Szeged with concerts in Szeged and Budapest, Hungary. The Budapest concert was recorded with a live audience for future broadcast on Hungarian National Radio. He was also a guest conductor in southern Germany with the Stadtkapelle Markdorf. Duane Carroll teaches clarinet and saxophone performance in his private studio.
|Mr. Richard Cionco
Praised by the New York Times for his “sensitive pianism” pianist Richard Cionco has performed in recital and as concerto soloist in Japan, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Canada, and throughout the U.S.
A Steinway Artist since 1997, Mr. Cionco is a graduate of the University of Maryland and The Juilliard School where he studied with Thomas Schumacher, Rudolf Firkušný, and Audrey Bart Brown. Important performances include those at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, as well as The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the Chicago Cultural Center, the American Liszt Society Festival in Dallas, and at the Mondavi Center for the Arts in northern California. His performances of Liszt’s complete Transcendental Etudes have brought rave reviews, most notably from the Washington Post.
In 2013, Richard Cionco celebrates his 20th year as Professor of Piano at California State University, Sacramento where he teaches, performs, and composes. He also teaches each summer in Italy at the Orfeo International Music Festival and in Germany at the Sulzbach-Rosenberg International Music Festival. His first solo CD recording, Latin American Music for Solo Piano, has received rave reviews, and his live recording from Japan of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 has received international notoriety. He has also recorded for Cantilena Records and Innova Records. Mr. Cionco has just released a new solo CD recording of late piano music by Beethoven, and appears on a new CD by composer/pianist Sunny Knable titled American Variations, both on the Centaur label.
|Dr. Randall Creighton
has been active as a classical and jazz pianist and teacher for many years, including recent performances as a guest artist for Giving Concerts, which helps raise funds for the East Bay Young People’s Symphony Orchestra and other charities. He received a Master of Music degree from San Francisco State University and recently completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Arizona. His DMA document explores the aspects of classical form and jazz style in Nikolai Kapustin’s Twenty-four Preludes, Op. 53. He was active with the M.T.A.C. from 2002-2005, serving on the board of directors in 2003-2005. He has taught students of all ages in classical and jazz styles, and his technical method is based on his experience with the Taubman Approach. In the Spring 2012 semester, he taught at Diablo Valley College.
|Dr. Charles Fuery
has traveled extensively performing classical piano recitals, concertos, and world premiers of contemporary music, including appearances on both coasts of the U.S. and on TV and radio. During his college years, Chuck won several piano competitions. In 1978, after extensive nationwide auditions, he was selected by Gil Kalish as first alternate – one of 6 pianists – to attend the Tanglewood Festival in Massachusetts. Rudolf Serkin called Fuery a “gifted and inspired pianist.” His concerto performances of the Chopin 1st in Berkeley and the Beethoven 4th Piano concerto in Boston were highly celebrated and met with standing ovations, numerous curtain calls, and substantial critical acclaim.
|Dr. Natsuki Fukasawa
Steinway Artist Natsuki Fukasawa’s music career has taken her throughout U.S. cities as well as to Europe, Scandinavia, Israel, Australia, Japan and China. Natsuki has won many accolades and international prizes, including a rave review in Fanfare magazine and the Best Chamber Music Recording of the Year from the Danish Music Awards. In 2012, Natsuki was added to the distinguished roster of International Steinway Artists.
Natsuki is on the artist faculty for the Orfeo Music Festival in the Italian Alps, and Calcap Chamber Music Workshop in Sacramento. She has taught at California State University Sacramento, St. Mary’s College of Moraga, University of the Pacific. She also enjoys nurturing the young talents in her own private studio. Her main teachers include Takako Fukasawa (her mother), Fumiko Ishikawa, Mark Richman, Martin Canin, Jan Panenka, Anne Koscielny, Ferenc Rados and violist Tim Frederiksen. She is a Fulbright Scholar and has earned her degrees from New York’s Juilliard, Prague Academy in Czech Republic and University of Maryland.
Natsuki records for Classico and Da Capo labels and her career is noted in the World of Women in Classical Music and Who’s Who in America.
|Ms. Hang Li
currently serves as a member of the faculty at San Francisco Conservatory of Music Preparatory Division. She has made appearances extensively throughout China, the US, and Europe. Ms. Li also serves as an adjudicator for numerous national and international piano competitions.
Hang Li premiered Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.2 in China with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra at Shanghai Concert Hall in 1997. Her Beijing Concert Hall debut, performing Chinese contemporary piano works, received glowing notices in 1996. Before coming to the U.S, Ms. Li was the youngest lecturer at the China Central Conservatory of Music and among the judging committee of the Piano Performance Certificate of China Association of Musicians in Beijing.
Hang Li received her Master of Music from San Francisco Conservatory of Music; Bachelor of Art from Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China; Artist Certificate from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, and Artist Diploma from Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy. Her teachers include the eminent pianist Joaquín Achúcarro, Mack McCray, Qifang Li, and Yuan Ling. Ms. Li was also on the faculty of University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dallas School of Music and Coppell Conservatory of Music.
Ms. Li is an active member of Music Teachers National Association, Music Teachers’ Association of California, and American College of Musicians. She also runs Hang Li Piano Studio in Palo Alto, CA.
|Dr. John Hillebrandt
pianist, composer and educator, retired in 2011 from California State University, Stanislaus, where his remarkable career as staff accompanist and lecturer spanned 15 years and included more than 500 performances. He has been the Principal Pianist and Keyboardist for the Modesto Symphony Orchestra since 1996. His numerous and highly acclaimed performances each season include solo recitals, chamber music, concertos, and original compositions. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. degree in music from the University of Central Florida, and M.M. and Doctorate of Musical Arts degrees in piano performance from the University of Michigan. As a doctoral student, he received a dissertation grant for the composition and performance of microtonal piano music, and won the prestigious concerto competition for which he composed and performed his own Piano Concerto.
Much in demand as a piano teacher, he has taught many award-winning students, and is a frequent adjudicator for the Music Teachers’ Association of California, and numerous others. The current season of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra featured two new works for chamber orchestra, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” (on harpsichord), and keyboards in Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” In the fall of 2013, the MSO will present the Hillebrandt Piano Concerto. His epic cycle for piano, the “Transcendental Hymn-Fantasies” is in the final stages of preparation.
Hillebrandt is also an avid skier and mountaineer. His climbs include the Grand Teton, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Whitney; and he has hiked to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite more than 50 times.
|Dr. Frederick Hodges
Hailed by the press as one of the world’s finest pianists, Frederick Hodges is sought after by today’s foremost orchestras, festivals, conductors, and collaborative musicians. His artistry, virtuosity and charisma have brought him to the world’s most renowned stages, leaving audiences around the globe captivated.
Classically trained as a concert pianist, Frederick Hodges has established a reputation as a truly versatile artist equally sought after as solo recitalist and guest soloist with the California Pops Orchestra, the Palm Court Light Orchestra, and Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra. His extensive repertoire of classical music is supplemented by an expertise in the popular piano music of the early 20th century, specializing in Gershwin, Confrey, and their contemporaries.
He has appeared on national television, radio, and in several Hollywood films. He is also a much sought-after silent film accompanist and composer of film scores for both live performances and on DVD. He performs regularly at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.
Frederick has participated in many prestigious festivals including in Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, the West Coast Ragtime Festival, The Blind Boone Piano Festival in Columbia Missouri, the Templeton Music Festival at Mississippi State University, the El Segundo Ragtime Festival, and the Sedalia Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival.
|Mr. Ken Iisaka
a native of Japan, studied piano and composition from an early age. After immigrating to Canada, he was recognized as one of the most promising young artists. He performed numerous concerts, along with recordings and broadcasts on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Radio Canada. He has performed as soloist and a chamber musician in the US and his native Japan, as well.
Currently, Ken Iisaka is a contributing writer for San Francisco Classical Voice, a major classical music review on-line publication. He has also written for the Van Cliburn Foundation, and is working on essays on a variety of music related topics, soon to be published by a major news publication.
Ken Iisaka continues to perform as a soloist, an accompanist, and a member of various chamber groups. He is a champion of under-recognized composers such as Alkan and Medtner, and has performed major works of such composers. He has performed for heads of states at diplomatic events, as well as for other dignitaries. He was twice a finalist at the quadrennial Van Cliburn Foundation International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in Fort Worth, and appears in the feature documentary film, “They Came to Play.
|Ms. Audinga Jacobson
Audinga Jacobson brings to the Bay Area extensive performance and teaching experience in both Europe and the United States. She is a distinguished representative of the Russian school of violin playing. She continues the tradition of David Oistrakh as taught by her teachers Alexander Livontas (a student of Stolarsky), Victor Radovich, and Dana and Yuri Mazurkevich. Her method of teaching, with modification from her association with American pedagogical methods, combines the best aspects of both traditions. Ms. Jacobson is also an accomplished pianist studying for 15 years with the renowned Lithuanian pianist M. Rubackiene She was a first prize winner of the National Lithuanian Violin Competition. She has toured Europe extensively as a member of the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra. Ms. Jacobson received two Masters Degrees from the Lithuanian Academy of Music, one in violin performance and one in chamber music performance. She has appeared as soloist in television and radio broadcasts for both Lithuanian national television and radio. She was host for several years of a musical education program for children on Lithuanian national television. She has appeared in solo recitals and chamber music performances throughout New England. Ms. Jacobson is a judge of the U.S. Open Music Competition and currently teaches violin and piano at the San Francisco Institute of Music.
|Mr. John McCarthy
is Director Emeritus, Preparatory and Extension Divisions at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 2006, McCarthy was one of three teachers of classical music to receive a Distinguished Teacher Award from the Department of Education and the White House Committee on Presidential Scholars in the Arts at a ceremony in Washington D.C. During his tenure as director, McCarthy represented the Conservatory on the Education Committee of the San Francisco Symphony.
The National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts has honored McCarthy four times. His students have received many awards at the international level, including first prizes in the Individualis Competition in Ukraine, Khatchaturian Competition in Armenia, Scottish and Stravinsky International Piano Competitions, the International Bach Competition in Wurzburg, Germany, and the Rosalyn Tureck International Bach Competition in New York City.
As a performer, John McCarthy has appeared with the San Francisco Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall, with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players at the Ojai Festival, at Stanford University and in the annual Bracebridge Concerts at Yosemite National Park with his pianist-wife, Annamarie McCarthy.
|Ms. Roxanne Michaelian
A product of a musical family, Roxanne Michaelian, received her BM and MM from the S.F. Conservatory, studying with Claire James and Paul Hersh. Her first appearance was performing with the S.F. Symphony at age 12. She subsequently received first prize in the North American Young Artists Competition in Denver and performed with the Denver Symphony. Other prizes include overall at the Los Angeles Young Musicians Foundation Competition, performing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion under Calvin Simmons. She has also soloed with the Oakland Symphony, Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra and San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. Roxanne is also one of the Bay Area’s most sought after chamber musicians, and has performed on such series as Seattle Chamber Music Festival, the San Francisco Symphony Chamber Series at Davies Symphony Hall, Oakmont Festival, San Jose Chamber Music Society, Chamber Music West and Chamber Music Sundaes.
She has played in concert with Sharon Robinson, Jamie Laredo and Nadja Solerno Sonnenberg,members of the S.F. Symphony and S.F. Opera Orchestra. She has given master classes throughout the United States and has been coach for the Kirkwood Chamber Music Festival.Roxanne has played as an extra with the S.F. Symphony, as well as accompanying for their auditions. She currently maintains an active piano teaching studio as well as performing throughout the Bay Area.
|Mr. Stephen Moore
is a string pedagogue and professional freelance violist. He has served as Orchestra Director at the San Francisco School of the Arts, Orchestra Director and Music Department Facilitator for the Dixie School District and Miller Creek Middle School in San Rafael. Mr. Moore conducts orchestras and coaches sectionals and chamber music for ensembles such as the El Camino Youth Symphony, the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, the Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra, and the Stanford University Flute Ensemble.
Mr. Moore performs with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, West Bay Opera, Lamplighters Music Theatre, Broadway by the Bay, and ChamberMix. He is Principal Violist of the San Francisco Sinfonietta, the Winifred Baker Chorale of Dominican University, the Marin Oratorio, and has played Principal for the San Francisco Lyric Opera.
Stephen Moore received his Bachelor of Music in Viola Performance from Northwestern University where he studied with Peter Slowik and Chicago Symphony violist Robert Swan. He has also studied with Paul Yarbrough and the Alexander Quartet at San Francisco State University.
A dedicated teacher, his private students have won numerous concerto competitions. As a director of the California Music Educators’ Association (CMEA), he has presented several workshop seminars for the CMEA.
|Mr. Georgi Mundrov
Bulgarian pianist Georgi Mundrov was educated at the Sofia Music Academy and was influenced by Prof. Milena Mollova and Prof. Triphon Silyanowski. Postgraduate studies in Frankfurt, Germany and subsequent concert examinations in the master class of Prof. Kristin Merscher at the University of Music at Saarland, Germany.
He made his debut in Bangkok, Thailand and Singapore in 2008, Washington D.C. and Lancaster, PA in 2009, and Tel Aviv, Israel in 2010.
As artistic director of the Dreieicher Musiktage im Mai music festival, GEORGI MUNDROV is one of the youngest program and concept designers of such international music podiums.
|Dr. Lino Rivera
Born in the Philippines, Lino Rivera has performed as a solo recitalist, concerto soloist, chamber musician and accompanist on three continents. He makes it his mission to advocate and premiere contemporary works; to explore and meet the artistic, creative, and technical challenges of piano transcriptions; and to discover and perform obscure solo piano repertoire throughout the ages. Lino is a celebrated performer for Composers, Inc., an organization based in San Francisco that is dedicated to promoting works by contemporary American composers.
|Mr. Alejandro Sabre
is an award winning pianist & composer. Born and raised in Mexico City, Sabre started playing the piano at age 4. He has performed extensively throughout Mexico, the United States and a few countries in Europe and Asia. His busy schedule includes teaching full time at Modesto Junior College, where he is in charge of the piano and music theory programs, as well as performing and writing music. He has offered master classes and lectures for both piano students and teachers through the Stanislaus branch of the Music Teachers Association of California. A strong advocate for the arts and community engagement, Sabre serves on the board of directors of the recently inaugurated Gallo Center for the Arts where he was instrumental in developing the Arts Education program.
His experience adjudicating piano competitions includes major events throughout the state of California, most recently the 2011 Sylvia M. Ghiglieri International Piano Competition. He holds degrees from Mexico City’s National School of Music, Carnegie Mellon University and the Eastman School of Music where he earned a doctoral degree in Piano Performance and Literature with a minor in Music Theory. He has recorded for RCA/BMG and Centaur Records.
|Dr. Charles Sepos
began teaching music in 1974. His thousands of students include successful music professionals around the world. He created a popular, long-running course for the Houston Symphony and Rice University Office of Continuing Studies, and was a Teaching Artist for Texas Institute for Arts in Education. As Visiting Assistant Professor at Shepherd School of Music, he earned Rice University’s highest Course/Instructor evaluation. He also taught at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, University of Colorado College of Music, and Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he earned Bachelor of Music, Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees.
Charles Sepos is the first recipient of the $25,000 Bradmark Composition Award. His music has been played by the Houston Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony, American Philharmonic – Sonoma County and other artists and ensembles internationally.
Charles Sepos is a co-founder of American Philharmonic – Sonoma County, and served as its Artistic Director, Composer-in-Residence and Director of Communications.
Charles Sepos is host and executive producer of Curtain Call every Friday since 1995 from noon to 1 on KRCB FM National Public Radio Sonoma County. His 1,700 guests have included pianists Lang Lang, Andre Watts, Garrick Ohlsson, Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, Stephen Hough, Angela Hewitt, Earl Wild, Lydia Artymiw, Malcolm Bilson, Jonathan Biss, Yefim Bronfman, Ingrid Fliter, Claude Frank, Kirill Gerstein, Horacio Gutierez, Wu Han, Jeffrey Kahane, Gilbert Kalish, Ivan Moravec, Jon Nakamatsu, Christopher O’Riley, Natasha Paremski, Jon Kimura Parker, Awadagin Pratt, Stephen Prutsman; and jazz pianists Dave Brubeck and Fred Hersch.
|Dr. Beverly Serra-Brooks
Gold Medal Winner in the Artists International Competition, Dr. Beverly Serra-Brooks made her New York Recital Debut in 1998 at Carnegie Hall, and West Coast Debut at The Japan-America Theater in Los Angeles. Since then she has performed in concert halls across the United States, including live radio and TV broadcasts and NPR’s Performance Today.
Dr. Serra-Brooks is a recording artist for Eroica Classical Recordings, which recently released her latest CD, “Looking Within” featuring piano music of Haydn, Schoenberg and Brahms. An upcoming 2013 CD will be music of Chopin, Liszt and Debussy.
Dr. Serra-Brooks collegiate appointments include Bethune-Cookman University in Florida and Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles. With her husband, Lee, she co-founded Hummingbird Music Studio and POP! Pianist’s Outreach Project which is dedicated to bringing classical music to audiences in unusual venues by pianists of all ages. Beverly also authored the histro-drama Clara Schumann At The Piano, in which she played the title role. Beverly regularly serves as jurist for regional and national competitions and her students win competitions throughout the United States, including a Gold medal in the National James H. Hefner Competition, the Chopin N.W. Competition, Portland International Piano Festival, and The Hawaii Piano Festival & Competition.
Beverly studied with James H. Shearer, Dr. Reginald Stewart and Jerome Lowenthal at the Music Academy of The West, Leonid Hambro at California Institute of the Arts, Jorg Demus in Austria & Germany and Michel Beroff at the American Conservatory at Fountainebleau, France.
|Dr. Larry Warkentin
Dr. Larry Warkentin is professor emeritus at Fresno Pacific University, where he taught piano performance and music composition for forty years, before his retirement in 2002. He has appeared as soloist with the Tulare County Symphony in a performance of his Piano Concerto No. 1. In June 2005, he presented a recital of Chopin’s works in Gdansk
Dr. Warkentin holds a DMA degree from the University of Southern California.
|Dr. Ho Yan Agnes Wan
Praised as a “big pianist, big musician, big potential” with “compelling artistry that draws the listeners in and envelops them with musical joy,” Hong Kong-native pianist Ho Yan Agnes Wan was named a finalist (the only solo pianist among the finalists) at the 2012 International Web Concert Hall Competition She has received awards at the Los Angeles Liszt International Piano Competition, Artists International Debut Auditions, the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition, Loyola Concerto/Aria Competition, University of Iowa All-University Concerto/Aria Competition, University of Iowa Chamber Music Competition, and the Hong Kong Open Piano Competition. An active recitalist, she has performed in various parts of the United States, as well as in Canada, France, and Hong Kong, and has also given live recital broadcasts on various radio stations.
A graduate of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Loyola University New Orleans, and the University of Iowa where she received her bachelor, master’s, and doctoral degrees in piano performance respectively, Agnes also holds an Artist Diploma from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Her teachers have included Gabriel Kwok, Nancy Loo, Jac McCracken, Uriel Tsachor, James Tocco, and Michael Chertock.
As a clinician, Agnes teaches a studio of talented students at the Professional Piano Academy of Nashville, and has been a conference presenter and youth piano competition adjudicator. Her Book, “Physical and Mental Issues in Piano Performance: The Interrelationships between Physical Tension, Performance Anxiety, and Memorization Strategies,” has been published by VDM-Verlag in 2008.
|DR. CHIA-LIN YANG
received both her Doctoral and Master’s Degree of Piano Performance from the Indiana University-Jacobs School of Music, where she studied with André Watts and Evelyne Brancart. Her musical excellence has been recognized internationally while being awarded top prizes at numerous competitions such as Seattle International, Wideman International, Camerata, and WAMSO Young Artist Competitions and while performing throughout North America and her native country, Taiwan. Chia-Lin Yang has been on faculty at Indiana University, Northern California-School of Music, and West Valley College where she founded the highly acclaimed WVC Young Artist Concert Series. Being enthusiastic about chamber music, Chia-Lin has dedicated her time to collaborating with fellow musicians as well as students. She is the founder of the Aristo Trio and the Yang-Shin-Bate Trio. She is a participant at the Sarasota Chamber Music Festival. Chia-Lin Yang was invited to play in the soundtrack of an award-winning independent movie, “Hidden,” directed by Robert Shelby. Currently, Dr. Yang works as a collegiate staff pianist at San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a faculty member at the Prep Division. She is a member of the MTAC and directs a private teaching studio in the South Bay.