Cooper Competition Returns July 16-22 with Largest Prize Package Ever

June 30, 2016

Erich Burnett

2012 Cooper Competition champion Leonardo Colafelice
2012 Cooper Competition champion Leonardo Colafelice of Italy, at the Concerto Finals in Severance Hall.
Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

Thirty young pianists from around the world will converge in Oberlin July 16 to 22 for the seventh-annual Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition—and the stakes will be higher than ever.

Beginning this year, cash prizes for the Cooper Competition will be doubled to an incredible $40,000—including $20,000 for first place. The total purse represents the highest prize package of any competition for its age group.

The 2016 Cooper Competition field features performers hailing from eight countries and 14 U.S. states as well as the District of Columbia.

The excitement begins Saturday, July 16, on the beautiful Oberlin campus, with five days of free performances presented by 30 pianists, ranging in age from 13 to 18. The action culminates on Friday, July 22, as three finalists perform complete concertos with The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall in Cleveland, under the direction of Jahja Ling.

The winner takes home the $20,000 first prize, with $10,000 and $5,000 awarded for second and third place, respectively. Each finalist’s prize package also includes a full four-year tuition scholarship to attend the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

In addition to the top prizes, the competition awards $1,500 to each of the fourth- through sixth-place winners and also grants an Audience Prize of $500. These are presented at the conclusion of the Recital Final round in Oberlin on Wednesday, July 20. An Honors Concert, featuring pianists who delivered the most moving performances during the week, will be held in Oberlin Thursday, July 21.

All Oberlin performances are free and open to the public; details about each round can be found at the official Cooper Competition website, and updates on the action will be posted at

For the first time, the 2016 Cooper Competition Concerto Finals will be part of The Cleveland Orchestra’s popular Summers@Severance series, created to expand the orchestra’s summertime offerings and showcase the ensemble as an integral part of its home neighborhood. As part of the series, the Concerto Finals will feature pre- and post-concert receptions in beautiful University Circle.

“Since its founding, the Cooper Competition has been synonymous with outstanding performances from the world’s most talented young musicians,” says Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory Andrea Kalyn. “We are proud to reward their artistry with one of the most lucrative prize packages of any international youth competition anywhere, and we are forever grateful to Thomas and Evon Cooper and The Cleveland Orchestra for their enthusiastic support every step of the way.”

TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW: Tickets for the Concerto Finals at Severance Hall start at $25, and all students under age 18 are admitted free with a paying adult. Summers@Severance subscriptions and more information can be found at the Cleveland Orchestra website or by calling 800-686-1141.

The 2016 Cooper jury consists of esteemed pianists from the Oberlin Conservatory faculty and acclaimed performer-pedagogues from throughout the world. Along with Oberlin professors Alvin Chow, Angela Cheng, Monique Duphil, Robert Shannon, Peter Takács, and Matti Raekallio, the international jury includes Dag Achatz, Swedish soloist, recording artist, and composer; Uzbekistani-born American pianist Stanislav Ioudenitch, gold medalist of the 11th Van Cliburn Competition; Lisa Nakamichi, founding artistic director of the Aloha International Piano Festival; and Wu Ying, professor and department head at the Central Conservatory of Music in China.

Once again, the competition’s Recital Finals at Oberlin and Concerto Finals at Severance Hall will be broadcast live by Cleveland’s classical station, WCLV 104.9 FM.

For a complete competition schedule, please visit the official Cooper Competition website.

ABOUT THE COOPER COMPETITION: Founded in 2010, the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition is dedicated to presenting an important international competitive opportunity to outstanding young musicians. It is made possible through the generosity of Thomas Cooper, a 1978 graduate of Oberlin College, and his wife, pianist Evon Cooper. The Cooper Competition alternates annually between piano and violin and is open to participants between the ages of 13 and 18. Past winners include George Li and Leonardo Colafelice, both of whom have cultivated outstanding young performance careers.

ABOUT OBERLIN AND THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA: The relationship between Oberlin College and The Cleveland Orchestra dates back nearly a century, beginning with the philanthropy of John Long Severance, an 1885 Oberlin graduate and flutist who founded the Musical Arts Association, under which The Cleveland Orchestra was established in 1918. The Cleveland Orchestra first performed in Oberlin in 1919, six months after its founding. The orchestra has returned to Oberlin each season since, giving more than 200 performances on campus to date.

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