Student Musicians Win Big at National Competition


Ilene Park ’22

Clara Ma ’23, Noam Ginsparg ’22, Angela Choi ’21, Ricky Shi ’22, and Victoria Chen ’21 won major prizes in their divisions.

The concert hall is empty except for a black piano on the stage. As Ricky Shi ’22 bows and sits before the piano, four judges stare expectantly at him. Months of hard practice lead up to this moment. He pauses briefly to collect his thoughts, and then the first few notes pierce the air.
Shi, along with five other students, participated in the annual Music Teachers National Association Competition at the University of Connecticut on November 9. Founded in 1963, the competition seeks to provide learning opportunities for students as well as recognize talented young artists.
Shi and Victoria Chen ’21 won first and second prize respectively in the Senior Piano Competition; flautist Clara Ma ’23 won first prize in the Senior Winds Competition; and cellist Noam Ginsparg ’22 and violinist Angela Choi ’21 took home first and second prize respectively in the Senior Strings Competition. Mr. Fabio Witkowski, head of the visual and performing arts department, said, “I was able to watch all [of their] performances. Everyone played their extremely challenging pieces with great confidence, excitement, and musicality.”
This is Shi’s second year competing in the contest. Last year, he won second prize in the Junior Piano Division. This year, his repertoire included pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Sergei Prokofiev, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. He said, “I spent many hours beforehand practicing, and when I got there, I was really confident. The best thing to do is to focus on the notes you are playing, and tell yourself that you are going to do great.”
The competition not only provided student musicians with an opportunity to share their music, but its challenging criteria helped them improve. Shi said, “I have improved a lot in the past year. Every time [I participate in] a competition, [the experience] teaches me a lot, not just in the way I play, but also in boosting my confidence and telling myself that I can achieve better.” Ma said, “I feel like we represented the Hotchkiss School well, not just by winning in instrument category, but by the talent and passion demonstrated by each musician who participated.”
In December, the first-place winners – Shi, Ma, and Ginsparg – will represent the state of Connecticut in the Eastern Division round, competing against winners from other Northeastern states.