Rising stars in the spotlight at national piano competition

Four rising music stars from Griffith have been selected for the prestigious Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition and Festival, a 14-day celebration of all things piano.

The biennial national competition is hosted by the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, and features concerts, masterclasses and a showcase with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

A global audience

Third year Bachelor of Music student Ruby Luck first attended the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition as a wide-eyed 11-year-old, and is thrilled to be a part of this year’s competition.

“As a kid I went along to the Lev Vlassenko competition with my Mum and thought it was so cool – I can’t believe that I’ll be up there on stage this time around,” she says.

“This is my first official big competition, and it’s an honour to be selected.

“The Lev Vlassenko has a following across the world, and you get the chance to play in front of a large and appreciative audience.”

Each of the finalists has to prepare several hours of repertoire, from Bach preludes to Mozart sonatas and Rachmaninov etudes.

“For me, the preparation process is really important – we learn a huge repertoire for a competition like this, which is so valuable when you’re a young musician,” she says.

Ruby chose to study at the Queensland Conservatorium because of the many and varied performance opportunities on offer.

“Competitions like this are just one of the many opportunities I’ve had during my time at the Con – I’ve collaborated with chamber ensembles, premiered new opera works by Con students and played concertos with the Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra,” she says.

‘A spectacular privilege’

Second year Bachelor of Music student Samuel Choi has also been selected to compete at the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition.

Samuel’s father completed a Masters in choral conducting at the Queensland Conservatorium, and his home was always alive with the sound of music. He started playing piano at the age of nine and just three years later, he was awarded a Licentiate in Music Australia (LMusA) – an internationally recognised diploma that only 10% of candidates pass.

“I love the virtuosity of the piano,” he says.

“I tried cello and drums – but something just clicked when I started learning piano.”

Samuel is among 19 young pianists from across Australia selected to compete at the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition, an experience he says is “a spectacular privilege”.

“It’s an intense competition, and it can be nerve-wracking, but to be playing alongside the best of the best is such an honour,” he says.

So how does the young pianist prepare to compete on the national stage?

“Practice, practice, practice,” he says with a laugh.

“Once I know a piece really well, I just let myself get lost in the music – I’m not even aware of the audience.

“It is definitely a challenge, but I really thrive on it – if you didn’t enjoy it, there would be no point.”

Fellow Queensland Conservatorium students Hana Hart and Tokiwa Onoda have also been selected for the competition.

The competition was founded in 1999 by Queensland Conservatorium piano lecturers Natasha Vlassenko and Oleg Stepanov, and named in honour of Ms Vlassenko’s father, renowned Soviet pianist and educator Professor Lev Vlassenko.

The competition also involves a special category that showcases new Australian compositions. This year, the competition has commissioned a new work by Queensland Conservatorium Head of Wind Paul Dean.

The Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition and Festival will run at the Queensland Conservatorium, South Bank from June 30 to July 12.