Priyam Mazumdar/Staff

After multiple stages of preliminaries, three finalists took to the stage for the final round of the Emory University Young Artist Piano Competition on Jan. 25. 

Ariel Wong, Charles “Charlie” Li and Solomon Ge competed in front of a live audience at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.

Directed by Professor Elena Cholakova, the competition welcomed pianists from ages 13 to 18 residing in the United States to register. Grace Xia Zhao, Associate Professor of Music at the University of La Verne (Calif.), pre-screened potential competitors to select the dozen finalists that would be invited to Emory to perform for the judges. The judges, University of Rochester (N.Y.) Professor Marina Lomazov and University of South Carolina Professor Joseph Rackers, then selected the top three pianists for a live competition. 

The competition awarded two types of honors. Lomazov and Rackers collaborated to select their official ranking of the first, second and third-prize winners. Additionally, a group of Emory piano major students chose their “Young Jury” winner. 

Wong, a 17-year-old Hong Kong native currently studying in Utah, was first to take the stage. Donning a purple dress and a confident demeanor, Wong charmed the crowd with her emotional rendition of Bach’s Capriccio from Partita, No. 2; Beethoven’s “Appassionata”; Rachmaninoff’s Morceaux de Fantasia, op. 3 No. 1 and Ravel’s Ondine.

“Ariel did have very good color,” Jason Lin (22C), a member of the Young Jury commented. “She did show many different facets of her … piano artistry.”

Li, a 16-year-old Georgia native, followed with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G Minor; Beethoven’s Sonata, op. 22 in B-flat Major; Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody, No. 6. His expressive performance style and technical gift impressed audience members.

“I thought he was really fun to watch,” said Shirley Gao (20B, 20PH), admiring his passion for performing. “He was throwing his whole body into it.”

Ge, a 17-year-old pianist and composer from San Jose, Calif., wrapped up the night with Bach’s French Suite and Scriabin’s Sonata No. 2.

“[The Young Jury] all agreed his playing was very refined,” Lin said.

Upon returning to the stage to receive their awards, the three pianists received a standing ovation and shared their future plans. Wong aims to join a piano conservatory to further improve her artistry and technique. Li hopes to continue competing and creating happiness with his music, and Ge sees music in his long-term future.

The judges and the Young Jury both chose Ge as the first-prize winner. Ge will receive a total of $1300 in prize money, $1000 for first-prize and $300 for the “Young Jury” award, and be invited to perform with a live orchestra directed by Paul Bhasin, Emory’s Director of Orchestral Studies. Li and Wong received $500 and $300 for second and third prizes, respectively.