Student Musicians Hit the Right Notes


Dr. Gisele Witkouski

Michael Zhang ’21 performs in Carnegie Hall last January.

Connecticut may be a small state, but its youth musicians have big potential.  The Connecticut Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Competition showcases this potential by gathering together the state’s gifted musicians.  Last Sunday, contestants met at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Riley Henshaw ’20, a flutist who attended the competition last year, noted, “I have faith that Hotchkiss will do well compared to other schools considering [all our students] received first and second place prizes last year.”

The competition does not end at the state level. Winners of each state competition can submit videos to receive invitations for a regional competition.  The winners in each division then travel to Spokane, Washington, in March to compete in the national competition. Pianist Shine Peng ’19 said, “This competition is a great opportunity for advancement and development as a young musician. Through these competitions, I develop professionalism, which will help with performances later on.”

Although musical performances may seem easy to a casual viewer, preparing for the competitive Connecticut MTNA Competition necessitates careful and consistent preparation. Violinist Shane Kim ’20 said, “I put hours and hours of time to practice and master the pieces. I usually practice several pieces at one time. I’m sure it took me more than two months.” 

While students attending the competition have an opportunity to improve and hone their practice skills, the competition also allows musicians to develop the mental focus required for a successful performance. Henshaw stated, “I want to test my [performing] abilities and also receive more tips from professionals. I [also] hope to gain experience, feedback, and [comfort] performing under pressure.”

All this preparation paid off. Pianist Bao Do ’22, Peng, and cellist Gemma Tung ’19 won second place in their respective categories. Pianist Rick Shi ’22,  pianist Michael Zhang ’21, and Henshaw won first place in their respective categories. These first prize winners will represent Connecticut in the Eastern region competition, where they will compete against other musicians from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey.