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The 2012 Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition, featuring 32 young pianists, takes place at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music July 19–27

Jun. 11, 2012

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George Li, winner of the 2010 Cooper International Competition. Photo by Roger Mastroianni

OBERLIN, OHIO (June 11, 2012) — The Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Orchestra are pleased to present the 3rd annual Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition. Building on the historic relationship between the two institutions, this international event will enhance educational opportunities for young musicians by offering scholarships, cash prizes, and the chance to perform in concert venues across the globe.

On July 19, 32 of the world’s most promising young pianists will converge on the Oberlin College campus to take part in the weeklong competition that culminates in a final, concerto round performance with the Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall. Musicians between the ages of 13 and 18 will also vie for three full scholarships to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, pending admission, and more than $20,000 in total prize money; the first-prize winner will receive $10,000 and concert engagements with orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai, China. (The full schedule of events follows this press release, or visit

The Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition debuted in summer 2010 for pianists, followed by a competition for violinists in 2011, and alternates annually between the two instruments.

The competition is sponsored by Thomas and Evon Cooper, who reside near Boston. Mr. Cooper, a 1978 Oberlin College graduate and a member of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, is a partner in the Boston investment firm of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Company; his wife, Evon, is a pianist and private piano teacher.

“My wife Evon and I are thrilled to be part of this exciting endeavor,” says Thomas Cooper. “We believe that it is important to encourage and support young artists in pursuing their musical aspirations, and we hope that the Cooper Competition serves to identify and showcase top youth talent from around the world for many years to come.”

“For an aspiring musician, there is no greater thrill than performing with one of the world's great orchestras,” says Dean of the Conservatory David H. Stull. “This gift from the Cooper family will provide an extraordinary and unparalleled opportunity for young pianists and violinists from around the world. We are deeply honored that Tom and Evon have chosen the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Orchestra as hosts for this remarkable competition.”

“This initiative of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music illustrates our continuing relationship,” says Gary Hanson, executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra. “We are pleased to welcome the Cooper Competition to Severance Hall, and that our orchestra and stage will be integral to this training ground for gifted young musicians.”

“The intent of the competition,” says competition director Robert Shannon, professor of piano and director of keyboard studies at Oberlin, “is to recognize and encourage outstanding young musicians, and to establish the Cooper Competition as one of the foremost competitions of its kind.”

The aspiring young artists hail from countries around the world including Canada, China, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and regions across the United States. This year’s distinguished panel of judges includes Shannon, from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and director of the 2012 Cooper International Piano Competition; Angela Cheng, Gold Medal winner of the Arthur Rubinstein Competition and associate professor of piano at Oberlin; Seung Hae Choi, from Kyungwon University in Seoul, South Korea; Alvin Chow, associate professor of piano at Oberlin; Jeremy Denk ’90, soloist and chamber musician; Christopher Elton from the Royal Academy of Music, London; Monique Duphil, professor of piano at Oberlin; Stanislav Ioudenitch, Gold Medal winner of the Van Cliburn Competition; Sanford Margolis, professor of piano at Oberlin; Cheung-Yu Mo ’95, professor of piano at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Hong Kong Academy of the Performing Arts; Haewon Song, associate professor of piano at Oberlin; Frances Walker-Slocum, emeritus professor of piano at Oberlin; and Dan Wen Wei, artist in residence at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music.

Young pianists interested in entering the 2012 Cooper Competition first submit video recorded auditions of repertoire specified in the online application at Thirty-two competitors are chosen to perform in three live rounds at the conservatory beginning on Saturday, July 21. The final three musicians will advance to the finals at Severance Hall, where they will perform a full concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra on Friday, July 27. The top three musicians will win $10,000, $6,000, and $3,000, respectively, and those in fourth, fifth, and sixth place will be awarded $1,000 each. The final three will also be awarded full scholarships to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, pending admission, valued at more than $150,000 each. The audience will award an additional $500 in cash to one of the finalists, selected by popular vote. In addition to prize money, the first-prize winner will receive concert engagements with orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai, China.

In addition to the experiences gained by performing under the rigors of a multi-round event, competitors are also invited to take private lessons and participate in master classes, which are offered by Oberlin faculty and competition judges. “The partnership of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music allows us to create a unique event: a high-level competition with opportunities for enrichment and education for everyone,” says Shannon.

Semifinals and two final rounds of the piano competition are open to the public, giving Ohioans a chance to hear some of the most promising young pianists in the world perform with an internationally renowned orchestra. A complete schedule is available at Admission for the semifinal rounds and the recital final round is free; the latter takes place in the conservatory's Warner Concert Hall on Wednesday, July 25 at 7 p.m., hosted by Robert Conrad, president of WCLV, Cleveland’s classical music radio station. The event will be broadcast live on 104.9-FM WCLV and on

The concerto final round on Friday, July 27 at Severance Hall will also be broadcast live on WCLV and hosted by Robert Conrad. The program begins at 8 p.m., with Jahja Ling conducting the Cleveland Orchestra and the top three finalists. Box seats are $25, dress circle seats are $20, and orchestra seats are $15; all seats are reserved. The Severance Hall Ticket Office is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 216-231-1111 or 800-686-1141 for more information or online at

The Cooper Competition is also pleased to announce an additional concert-going opportunity that will be of special interest to piano lovers. A recital featuring outstanding performances from the semifinal rounds will take place on Friday, July 27, at 4 p.m. in Severance's Reinberger Chamber Hall. The concert is free and open to the public.

Applications and details for both the violin and piano competitions are posted on the Oberlin website, at

Oberlin and The Cleveland Orchestra
The relationship between Oberlin and the Cleveland Orchestra dates back nearly a century, beginning with the philanthropy of John Long Severance, an 1885 Oberlin graduate and flutist who founded the Musical Arts Association, under which the Cleveland Orchestra was established in 1918. Severance and his wife were the major donors for the construction of the Cleveland Orchestra’s home, Severance Hall, and John Long Severance served as the orchestra’s second board president. The Cleveland Orchestra first performed in Oberlin in 1919, six months after its founding, and it has returned to Oberlin each season since, giving 211 performances on campus to date as part of Oberlin's Artist Recital Series. Members of the orchestra teach at Oberlin, Oberlin graduates are among the orchestra’s ranks—James Feddeck ’05 was appointed assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra in 2009—and the conservatory’s best students have been integrated into the orchestra’s performances and other special projects for years.

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music
Awarded the 2009 National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music is renowned internationally as a professional music school of the highest caliber. Praised as a “national treasure” by the Washington Post, the conservatory, founded in 1865 and situated amid the intellectual vitality of Oberlin College since 1867, is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the United States. Oberlin’s alumni have gone on to achieve illustrious careers in all aspects of the music world. Conservatory students and alumni have won top prizes in numerous international piano competitions, including the Van Cliburn, the Fryderyk Chopin, the Queen Elisabeth, the Arthur Rubinstein, the Walter W. Naumberg, the Unisa International Piano Competition (South Africa), the American Pianists Association Classical Fellowship competition, the Thailand International Piano Competition, the World Piano Competition, the Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Piano Competition, and the Busoni Competition. The conservatory’s collection of 1,700 period and modern musical instruments includes more than 200 Steinway grand pianos. Oberlin, an All-Steinway School, is Steinway & Sons’ oldest continuous client, with a relationship dating back more than 125 years. For more information about Oberlin, visit

The Cleveland Orchestra
Under the leadership of Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, the orchestra has become one of the most sought-after performing ensembles in the world. In concerts at its winter home at Severance Hall and at each summer’s Blossom Festival, in residencies from Miami to Vienna, and on tour around the world, the Cleveland Orchestra sets the highest standards of artistic excellence and creative programming. The Cleveland Orchestra’s educational programs have introduced nearly four million Cleveland-area schoolchildren to symphonic music. Founded in 1918, the Cleveland Orchestra today reaches a broad and loyal constituency through concerts, community engagement, touring, residencies, and recordings and radio broadcasts available online and on DVD and CD. For additional information, please visit

Guest Conductor Jahja Ling
Jahja Ling’s distinguished career as an internationally renowned conductor has earned him an exceptional reputation for musical integrity, intensity, and expressivity. He is in his eighth season as music director of the San Diego Symphony, where he has received the highest praise for his live performances and local and international broadcasts and recordings. Under his leadership, the San Diego Symphony has reached a new level of unprecedented artistic excellence, with its continuing increase of record attendance for the last seven years. Jahja Ling also holds one of the longest continuous relationships with the Cleveland Orchestra. His and the orchestra’s telecast performance of A Concert in Tribute and Remembrance for 9/11 received an Emmy Award. During the course of an unprecendented 26 consecutive seasons with the Cleveland Orchestra, he has conducted more than 600 works in 450 concerts for an audience of more than two million people. His recordings include a range of works on the Telarc, Azica Records, and Continuum labels, one of which was nominated for a Grammy award. With the San Diego Symphony, he has undertaken many commissions as well as premieres of many new works; in 2009, Never Far Away: Music of Bright Sheng, featuring Oberlin Assistant Professor of Harp Yolanda Kondonassis, was released by Telarc Records.

Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, of Chinese descent, Jahja Ling began to play the piano at age 4 and studied at the Jakarta School of Music. At age 17, he won the Jakarta Piano Competition and was awarded a Rockefeller grant to attend the Juilliard School, where he earned a master’s degree. At the Yale School of Music, he studied orchestra conducting under Otto-Werner Mueller, earning a doctor of musical arts degree in 1985. He received the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductor’s Award and the Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellowship at Tanglewood. Bernstein, who became one of his most influential mentors, subsequently chose him to be a Conducting fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute. Jahja Ling is the first and only conductor of Chinese descent who has conducted all of the major orchestras in North America, including Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. In 1988, he made his very successful European debut at the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Subsequently, he has appeared as guest conductor for most of the prominent orchestras in Asia and Europe.

Calendar of events

Saturday, July 21–Monday, July 23
Semifinals, Rounds I & II
Please visit for times and locations
Free admission

Tuesday, July 24
Concerto Round—Ten competitors perform a full concerto with piano accompaniment
Oberlin conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall
1:30 p.m.; 7 p.m.
Free admission

Wednesday, July 25
Recital Finals—Six competitors compete for the finals
Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall
7 p.m., broadcast live on WCLV–FM 104.9
Free admission

Friday, July 27
Cooper Reinberger Recital—Outstanding performances from the Semifinal Rounds
Severance's Reinberger Chamber Hall
4 p.m.
Free admission

Concerto Finals—Three finalists perform with The Cleveland Orchestra
Severance Hall
8 p.m. broadcast live on WCLV–FM 104.9
For tickets call 800-686-1141, or online at

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