​Five Winners Announced for the Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Pianists Peng Chian Chen and Jeong Seunghun, along with flutist Elise Kim, oboist Logan Jack Esterling and violinist Matthew Sakiyama, performed July 13 with an orchestra formed specifically for the concerto. Performed at the concert were pieces by Gershwin, Ravel, Mozart, Vaughan Williams and Beethoven.
All students of orchestral instruments or piano at the festival are invited to enter the Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition. Students compete for recognition of their musical achievements as well as a scholarship to attend the festival next year. According to festival director Evelyn Loehrlein, about 60 students entered the first of three rounds of the competition. In the second round, there were around 30 students, which was whittled down to 11 in the final round.
The Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition was established in 2007 by University graduate Walter Nance and Sewanee resident Mayna Avent Nance in honor of Mayna’s elder sister.
Student performances are judged for artistry and mastery—which is a difficult task because of the high level of skill all students of the festival possess.
“Many of the students are playing at a very high level, and the competition was intense. Each of the five performers displayed a special ingredient that goes beyond a high level of musical execution. That ingredient resulted in an obvious connection with the audience,” said Loehrlein.
Peng Chian Chen, who was born in Taiwan, Taichung, began playing the piano when he was 4-years-old. Chen auditioned with Beethoven’s “Concerto No.4 in G major, Op.58,” which he first heard on the radio six years ago.
“When I was little, I saw my mom practice the piano, and I went to her and told her that I also wanted to learn this instrument,” said Chen. “The piano opening of the piece is so admirable. It has a sense of gentility, intimacy and femininity.”
Chen says his inspiration to play comes from all those who have taught him the instrument.
“They all give me a different approach of music and piano, like how to listen to and analyze music, how to play the sounds coming from the heart and how to enjoy the life of the piece,” said Chen. “To me, playing the piano is like playing a puzzle game—at the beginning, all the small pieces are a blur but when putting it together, I can see the whole picture and many details.”
Washington native Elise Kim has been playing the flute for nine years.
“I started playing because a family friend of ours started playing in school band and I remember being intrigued by the sounds that the flute could make. As an introvert, I generally am not able to say exactly what I want to say with my words. With music and performing, I am able to communicate effectively and share what the music really means to me,” she said.
Kim said her inspiration comes from her family, who always supports her, and from “the great community of musicians that I have met through various festivals, youth orchestras and competitions.”
The final concerts of the 61st season of the SSMF are planned for Sunday, July 16, with performances by the Cumberland Orchestra at 2:30 p.m. and the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra at 3:30 p.m.