Backstage at the 2024 Gina Bachauer International Artists Competition: Meet the Quarterfinalists Part 5

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each day this week, The Utah Review will provide short profiles, featuring the 33 quarterfinalists for the 2024 Gina Bachauer International Artists Competition. Afternoon and evening sessions begin Monday, June 17. For tickets and more information, see the Bachauer website.

The Utah Review asked each pianist to answer four questions: 

1. In addition to practicing, how do you mentally prepare or have other rituals (e.g., meditation, stress relieving activities) for either performances in general or competitions such as Bachauer?

2. What has been your most memorable performance so far in your career?

3. Besides the vast catalog of piano works, what other types of music do you enjoy in your spare time?

4. For younger pianists who aspire to careers and experiences such as you have enjoyed, what is one piece of advice you would encourage?

Chun Lam U, 21 (Hong Kong)

  1. Preferred ways to mentally prepare for performance: I usually do meditation and go for a walk for some inspiration.
  2. Most memorable performance: It was my first time playing Rachmaninoff 3rd with an orchestra. It feels like a dream come true moment to play such a significant concerto in front of the audience.
  3. Other types of music they enjoy: I enjoy hearing some orchestral work.
  4. Advice for aspiring pianists: Enjoy the music, and speak whatever you want to say with the piano.

Wynona Yinuo Wang, 27 (China)

  1. Preferred ways to mentally prepare for performance: Besides practicing, building a positive mindset is very important for mental preparation for performances and competitions. I love performing and building connections with my audience through music, therefore I would reinforce the positive feelings I have from performing before going on stage. I often tell myself – you signed up for it, so you love it.
  2. Most memorable performance: There are so many memorable performances in my career so far and I consider every single performance opportunity unique and special. If I have to name one, I’d like to talk about when I performed the Grieg Piano Concerto in California during my freshman year. I was honored to perform with that orchestra and I had an amazing time working with the Maestro. During the Q&A session with the audience, there was a member who asked me whether I felt resentful playing Western music. My English wasn’t great at that time and I was embarrassed that I had to ask someone else to explain the question to me. I don’t remember what I answered, but this question made me think about the reason why I wanted to be a performing artist. I believe that music actually unites people and communicates the differences. I started to present concert programs with music from different cultural roots, and I realized that the audience always appreciated that. Music allows individuals to advocate for their uniqueness.
  3. Other types of music they enjoy: I enjoy playing chamber music. The joy of collaborating with other musicians and communicating with each other’s music-making means so much to me.
  4. Advice for aspiring pianists: Keep pursuing your passion and always stay true to your faith!

Zijian Wei, 25 (China)

  1. Preferred ways to mentally prepare for performance: If it was calculated a day in advance, I would go to bed earlier and eat alone at night. A few hours before the game, I take a deep breath and read a lot of music.
  2. Most memorable performance: The first time I played a concerto with a symphony orchestra, when I was 19 years old, I played the complete Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1, through the second movement, and I couldn’t stop crying.
  3. Other types of music they enjoy: I like to listen to Jay Chou, Zhou Shen, including recently there was a variety show《singer》Chante Moore
  4. Advice for aspiring pianists: Take your time, there are plenty of opportunities, but be sure to find your own personality, seize it, and let it thrive.

Yoonji Yeo, 20 (Korea)

  1. Preferred ways to mentally prepare for performance: Due to the nature of the piano, we must sit down and practice it continuously. In that situation, I think that stretching is really important because we are using our whole body, including our arms and legs. So, I am trying to exercise whenever I have time. Personally, I like swimming. When I feel anxious or tired while practicing, I go see good performances. When I listen to music in a large concert hall, I feel the beauty of the music once again and become more motivated. Getting enough sleep is also helpful for maintaining a healthy biological rhythm.
  2. Most memorable performance: The house concert I did in Denmark was the most memorable. We ate delicious food and performed in a nice house with a view of the forest. I played Chopin Fantasy and it was a performance that I was personally satisfied with. The audience also gave me such warm applause that it still remains a very beautiful memory. I also remember my performance at the Busoni Competition last year. It was especially helpful for me to hear the great musicians compete. So I would like to say that I have very high expectations for the colleagues that I will be meeting in this Gina Bachauer Competition. I’m already thrilled about the prospect of meeting and learning from outstanding musicians.
  3. Other types of music they enjoy: Since I mainly practice piano pieces that I often play alone, I listen to chamber music and concertos in my free time. It’s nice to hear the magnificent harmony of various instruments. Aside from classical music, I sometimes listen to pop songs and enjoy my spare time.
  4. Advice for aspiring pianists: The music we are making is very beautiful, but I think it is lonely and difficult. In contrast to the beautiful music, time spent alone and struggling in the practice room is essential. It is easy to be influenced by the results of the competition. If you continue to fail, you may begin to doubt yourself. However, I hope you believe in yourself and don’t get tired easily. If you keep moving towards your dream, you will someday achieve your goal. Let’s do our best. Cheer up!

Yuki Yoshimi, 24 (Japan)

  1. Preferred ways to mentally prepare for performance: meditation, sleeping a lot, eating a lot
  2. Most memorable performance: Playing a Mozart Concerto at the Suntory Hall which is the most prestigious venue in Japan has been my most memorable performance. I had been dreaming of playing there, and my dream came true.
  3. Other types of music they enjoy:  Of course, I love listening to classical music regardless of the instruments. Also, I often listen to Japanese pop songs to get myself energized.
  4. Advice for aspiring pianists: I guess I’m still on the path of pursuing my music, so I don’t think I can give them great advice. However, enjoying every moment they have in their musical journey will be my one piece of advice.

Angie Zhang, 28 (USA)

  1. Preferred ways to mentally prepare for performance: I mentally prepare by spending quality time alone and with others. I find a lot of inspiration in my daily life, as no two days are the same, and seek out moments of beauty and discourse with others. My family and friends are very important to me so I try, through small gestures and phone calls, to let them know that I am someone they can depend on, and I also enjoy talking with people I meet while I travel to listen to their stories. I find that the collective realm of experiences both lived and heard become my source for inspiration and calmness while I am onstage trying to express the very core of humanity.
  2. Most memorable performance: Oh, this is a hard one! I probably could not just name one. Top three would be performing solo recital at LACMA in LA, sharing the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Lincoln Center with Juilliard Dance five nights in a row playing Caroline Shaw’s Gustave le Gray (2012) with choreography by Aszure Barton, Canadian choreographer extraordinaire, and performing Chopin Concerto No. 1 last year on a Pleyel piano with the {oh!} Orchestra in Poland, where they all played on period instruments.
  3. Other types of music they enjoy: In the subway, I like to listen to Daft Punk, Muse, that kind of music. I am very much the type of person who will stay an artist for some time and listen to the complete anthology of works to figure out their artistic voice and harmonic blueprint.
  4. Advice for aspiring pianists: Play every note with every ounce of love you have, whether you are playing for one person or 10,000 people, whether you are playing in a recital or competition, and whether the piano is well-regulated or not! Also, get out of the practice room to talk with others and experience things that take you out of your comfort zone.

Lixin Zhang, 22 (New Zealand)

  1. Preferred ways to mentally prepare for performance: I try to eat and sleep well during competition periods. This way, I’ll feel fully energised when practising and mentally prepared for the performance.
  2. Most memorable performance: Last year, I completed a national charitable concert tour in New Zealand. It felt really good to have performed so many concerts while also giving back.
  3. Other types of music they enjoy: I also enjoy Chinese pop music, especially songs by JJ Lin and Joker Xue.
  4. Advice for aspiring pianists: Go for it! Stay committed to your craft, put in the hard work, and I’m sure wonderful things will come.

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