Chair of the Jury for the piano competition
At the very fore of American pianists, critics and audiences have unanimously hailed the distinctive and compelling performances of pianist Steven Spooner describing him as “a pianist in the tradition that many believe died with the likes of Horowitz, Arrau, Bolet, Cziffra, and Wild. His talent, to my ears, is easily the equal of most major pianists of today and far superior to a large number of those “most exciting and dynamic pianists of their generation” (FANFARE MAGAZINE).
Passionately devoted to the recital as a platform for innovation, he has been engaged and often re-engaged at prestigious venues such as the Salle Cortot in Paris, the Shanghai Concert Hall, Budapest’s Great Hall of the Liszt Academy, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Rome’s Santa Cecilia, and Singapore’s Esplanade. During the past seasons he has daringly reinvented the solo recital by allowing audiences to vote on the spot for one of five programs he has prepared and like golden age pianists, his programs often feature his own glittering arrangements and compositions.
In 2016 he released a monumental project of 16 CDs honoring his heroes of the Russian School called Dedications. This mammoth project was met with enormous critical acclaim from all over the globe. His enthusiasm for new music has produced an ongoing collaboration with renowned Deutsche Grammophon composer, Mohammed Fairouz (commissioned by the ROKI Foundation) to premiere and record several of his works during the next few seasons. Steven is currently the co-star, along with his wife Jung, of their internet-based show about all things piano, A Life of Music.
Steven has served as guest artist-in-residence at Paris Conservatory Summer Sessions and has been appointed to the Artist Faculty of the Colburn Music Academy, Amalfi Coast Music Festival, Musicfest Perugia, the International Institute for Young Musicians, the Adam Gyorgy Castle Academy in Budapest, and even his own Steven Spooner Inspire Festival in Singapore.
Steven is increasingly in demand for his masterclasses at major music institutions all over the world such as the Paris Conservatory, Milan Conservatory, Liszt Academy of Music, and the Shanghai and Beijing Conservatories and in America at Rice, Indiana, Colburn, Oberlin, and many others. Steven serves as Professor of Piano at the Peabody Institute, Johns Hopkins University.
A dedicated and caring teacher of students from around the world, Steven’s pupils have been named winners of multiple prizes at important international and national piano competitions and enjoy performing careers of their own. Steven Spooner is a Steinway Artist.
James Giles regularly performs in important musical centers in America, Europe, and Asia. Recent tours have taken him to the Nancy Music Festival in France, the Accademia Cristofori in Florence, the Gijon Piano Festival in Spain, the Amalfi Coast Music Festival in Italy, and the Beijing International Music Festival. Last season featured a recording with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic in Russia; recitals in Florida, California, North Carolina, and France; and trips to Hong Kong and Shanghai.
In an eclectic repertoire encompassing the solo and chamber music literatures, Giles is equally at home in the standard repertoire as in the music of our time. He has commissioned and premiered works by William Bolcom, C. Curtis-Smith, Stephen Hough, Lowell Liebermann, Ned Rorem, Augusta Read Thomas, Earl Wild, and James Wintle. Most of these new works are featured on Giles’s Albany Records release entitled “American Virtuoso.” He can be heard with the Chicago Chamber Musicians in a release of music by John Harbison. His recording of solo works by Schumann and Prokofiev is available on England’s Master Musicians label and a new Schubert CD is due for imminent release.
His Paris recital at the Salle Cortot in 2004 was hailed as “a true revelation, due equally to the pianist’s artistry as to his choice of program.” After a recital at the Sibelius Academy, the critic for Helsinki’s main newspaper wrote that “Giles is a technically polished, elegant pianist.” And a London critic called his 2003 Wigmore Hall recital “one of the most sheerly inspired piano recitals I can remember hearing for some time” and added that “with a riveting intelligence given to everything he played, it was the kind of recital you never really forget.”
He has performed with New York’s Jupiter Symphony (Alkan and Czerny); the London Soloists Chamber Orchestra in Queen Elizabeth Hall (Mozart and Beethoven); the Kharkiv Philharmonic in Ukraine (Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff); and with the Opera Orchestra of New York in Alice Tully Hall (Chopin). After his Tully Hall solo recital debut, critic Harris Goldsmith wrote: “Giles has a truly distinctive interpretive persona. This was beautiful pianism – direct and unmannered.” Other tours have included concerts in the Shanghai International Piano Festival; Warsaw’s Chopin Academy of Music; Chicago’s Dame Myra Hess Series, Salt Lake City’s Assembly Hall Concert Series, and in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Musikhalle in Hamburg, and the Purcell Room at London’s South Bank Centre. He has given live recitals over the public radio stations of New York, Boston, Chicago, and Indianapolis. As a chamber musician he has collaborated with members of the National and Chicago Symphonies and with members of the Pacifica, Cassatt, Chicago, Ying, Chester, St. Lawrence, Essex, Lincoln, and Miami Quartets, as well as singers Aprile Millo and Anthony Dean Griffey.
A native of North Carolina, Dr. Giles studied with Byron Janis at the Manhattan School of Music, Jerome Lowenthal at the Juilliard School, Nelita True at the Eastman School of Music, and Robert Shannon at Oberlin College. He received early career assistance from the Clarisse B. Kampel Foundation and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Italy with the legendary pianist Lazar Berman.
The pianist was the recipient of a fellowship grant and the Christel Award from the American Pianists Association. He won first prizes at the New Orleans International Piano Competition, the Joanna Hodges International Piano Competition, and the Music Teachers National Association Competition. As a student he was awarded the prestigious William Petschek Scholarship at the Juilliard School and the Rudolf Serkin Award for outstanding graduate at the Oberlin College Conservatory. He has written for Piano and Keyboard magazine and has presented lecture-recitals at the national conventions of the Music Teachers National Association, the College Music Society, and Pi Kappa Lambda. He regularly serves on competition jury panels and has been conference artist for several state music teachers associations.
Dr. Giles is coordinator of the piano program and director of graduate studies at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music. He gives master classes and lectures at universities nationwide and has taught during the summers at the Eastern Music Festival, Bowdoin, Brevard, Colburn, Interlochen, ARIA, Pianofest in the Hamptons, and in Italy at the Schlern Festival in addition to the Amalfi Coast Piano Institute, where he currently holds the position of acting director. He has taught classes at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, the Royal College of Music in London, the Chopin Academy in Warsaw, the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and at Indiana University, where he was twice asked by Menahem Pressler to teach his students while the pianist was on tour.
Pianist Jay Hershberger has played throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. His domestic performances include the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Library of Congress. He has also been frequent guest artist at the Great Romantics Music Festival in Canada. In years past he performed in Europe, including the Amalfi Coast Music Festival in southern Italy and the South Bohemia Music Festival in the Czech Republic. Recent tours have included major cities in China, and at music festivals in Scotland and Italy.
He is a founding member of Excelsior! Trio, a chamber group that performs an eclectic mix of classical, folk, jazz, and fusion. Excelsior! Trio tours extensively in the US and in Europe. Jay is currently Professor of Piano at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. His undergraduate students regularly win competitions and have been accepted into prestigious graduate schools in piano performance and pedagogy, many with teaching assistantships.
An active adjudicator, Hershberger has judged for the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, the Phoenix Young Artist Competition, the San Angelo Symphony Sorantin Awards, the Lee Biennial Competition, the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Young Artist Competition, and the Music Teachers National Association. He is vice president of the American Liszt Society. His first compact disc recording, featuring works by Franz Liszt was featured on Michael Barone’s New Releases radio program on Minnesota Public Radio.
The artistry of Éva Polgár, DMA, is characterized by clarity, conviction, and virtuosity. Critiques praise her for her “intelligent interpretation” (Funzine Magazine), the capability of “fully entering into the spirit of narrating a story” (ArkivMusic), and “vibrant technique” (American Hungarian Journal). Her dedication to her native Hungarian culture resulted in researching Béla Bartók’s piano arrangements of his original orchestral compositions and specializing in Franz Liszt’s music. Her Liszt interpretation was praised by Liszt scholar Alan Walker as “A stunning performance! A real artist!” and she was featured at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Hungarian Culture Centre in London, and the Liszt Ferenc Museum and Research Center in Budapest.
Polgár’s concerto performances include concerts with conductors Tamás Vásáry at the Budapest Danube Palace and Horst Förster at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. In the realm of cross-disciplinary endeavors, she collaborates extensively with visual artist Sándor Vály. Their experimental music albums released under Ektro Records have been broadcast by the Finnish Radio.
Polgár has won top prizes in competitions including the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition (LAILC). She is a co-director of LAILC, which empowers her to foster young musicians at their early stage of a professional career. A committed educator and adjudicator, she has appeared at masterclasses, festivals, and competitions such as LAILC; the Bogotá International Piano Festival in Columbia; Tulsa University Summer Piano Academy in Oklahoma; Florida International University in Miami, Florida; Montclair State University in New Jersey; and many more.
A graduate of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music and Sibelius Academy, Polgár earned her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance at the University of North Texas. Before joining the piano faculty at Azusa Pacific University, she taught at Texas Woman’s University and at the University of North Texas.
Pianist Gila Goldstein has performed as a solo artist and a collaborative pianist throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, Korea, the Philippines, Europe and Israel.
Her most notable performances include performances with the Berliner Symphoniker, the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquesta Da Camera in Mexico City and the Lincoln Symphony in Nebraska, as well as recitals and concerts at Lincoln Center and Merkin Hall in New York City, Progetto Martha Argerich in Lugano, Beijing Concert Hall in China, Seoul National University in Korea, the Purcell Room at the South Bank Center in London, Konzerthaus in Berlin, Musée de Louvre and Cité des Arts in Paris, Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Old First Church in San Francisco, Gardner Museum and the Tsai Performance Center in Boston, Dame Myra Hess concert series, Ravinia’s “Rising Stars” Series and Symphony Hall in Chicago, Israel’s Henry Crown Hall in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv Museum.
A Board member of the American Liszt Society (ALS) and the Founder-President of its NY/NJ Chapter since 1992, she has been a frequent guest performer at the ALS annual festivals around the USA.
A champion of the music of Israel’s leading composer Paul Ben-Haim in the past two decades as a performer and recording artist, Ms. Goldstein has recorded two volumes of his entire piano and chamber works on the Centaur label. Among the rave reviews the recordings have received worldwide, the American Record Guide wrote: ”Goldstein is a charismatic performer who plays with great flair, delicate nuances, fluid tempi and brilliance”. PIANIST magazine in London wrote: “Goldstein has a technique as fierce and fiery as the color of her hair”.
These recordings mark a significant addition to the commercial releases of Israeli classical music, as well as an important addition to the worldwide recordings of 20th century piano music.
Gila Goldstein is a member of the piano faculty at Boston University. Between 2017-2020 she served as the Director of the Young Artist Piano Program at BU Tanglewood Institute. She has given master classes and adjudicated international and national piano competitions throughout the USA, in Israel, China, Korea and the Philippines.
She obtained her music degrees in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Prof. Nina Svetlanova and the Tel-Aviv University’s School of Music, where her teacher was Prof. Victor Derevianko.