ROCHESTER, NY — Four Eastman School of Music keyboard student from around the globe took top prizes at recent organ and piano competitions, bringing back accolades for themselves, their teachers, and the School.
Nicole Marane, 26, a first year doctoral student from Canberra, Australia, took two first prize wins in back-to-back organ competitions. On Saturday, May 2, Marane was awarded the top prize at the 14th annual John R. Rodland Memorial Scholarship Fund competition in Ridgewood, New Jersey, sponsored by the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Initial round competitors came from nearly a dozen states throughout the country. The award includes a $6000 cash prize and an appearance on May 23 at the Community Hymn Festival. The three finalists were required to demonstrate hymn playing, choral conducting from the console, and perform two organ works. In April, Marane won the first annual Miami International Organ Competition. Her prize included a $2000 cash award and an invitation to play a full-length competition-sponsored recital during the 2004-05 season. A total of 22 participants from across the country competed in the initial rounds. The final three competitors performed one-half hour of music, which included required pieces and well as those of the competitors’ choice. Ms. Marane is the teaching assistant and student of Dr. David Higgs, chair of the organ department.
The St. Catharines, Ontario native Stephen Fraser, 23, took first prize in last month’s prestigious Forth Wayne National Organ Competition. Fraser received a cash prize of $1500 and the opportunity to perform a recital in May as part of the First Presbyterian Church’s Music Series in Fort Wayne. Six finalists were narrowed down from nearly two dozen international competitors. This year’s rules were more stringent than in the past; the initial round required all selections to be performed without interruption, as if in a live performance. Now in its 37th year, the Fort Wayne National Organ Competition is the oldest of its kind in the United States. It boasts a long list of distinguished winners including Eastman’s own Professor David Higgs, who won second prize in 1979. A student of Dr. Hans Davidsson, Fraser will graduate in May with his master’s degree.
A junior in the organ department studying with David Higgs, Eric Dombrowski won first prize at the Wells Competition for Young Organists at First United Methodist Church in Lubbock, Texas. Dombrowski’s first prize consists of $2500 and a guest appearance on the church’s concert series. Three finalists were chosen from 16 taped auditions in the preliminary round. Dombrowski, 21, hails from Cooperstown, New York, and is assistant director of music at Reformation Lutheran Church in Rochester.
The 20-year old pianist Hong Xu is no stranger to competitions. This Eastman sophomore from Wuhan, China took second prize in back-to-back piano competitions last month: the Hilton Head International Piano Competition — receiving the Kathleen Rowley Award of $6000 — and the National Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Steinway Young Artists Competition, for which he received a cash prize of $1500. More than 100 applicants from 32 countries responded to the call for entries in the Hilton Head competition; the 24 actual contestants respresented 13 countries. Each finalist performed a complete concerto with the Hilton Head Orchestra under the direction of Maestra Mary Woodmansee Green. The MTNA competition was the culmination of Xu’s first prize wins at both the New York MTNA and the Eastern Regional MTNA Competition. Nationally, there were 193 original Young Artists competitors, which were narrowed down to 45 after the state finals, then down to the final seven. A student of Douglas Humpherys and one of only four Liberace Scholars at Eastman, Xu has won prizes at the Gina Bachauer Young Artists International Piano Competition and second prize in the Eastman Young Artists International Piano Competition, prior to becoming a student at the School.