Cooper International Competition Celebrates 10 Years in July

June 7, 2019

Erich Burnett

violinist Johan Dalene performs at the 2017 Cooper Competition.
Johan Dalene of Sweden won first prize at the 2017 Cooper Competition for Violin. In 2019, Dalene won first prize in the Carl Nielsen Competition.
Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

Two dozen violinists vie for share of $40K in cash prizes.

The violin world sets its gaze on Oberlin Conservatory once again this July as more than two dozen of the world’s most talented young musicians convene for the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition.

Now in its 10th year, the Cooper Competition welcomes violinists hailing from eight countries and seven U.S. states to Oberlin for a week of performances beginning July 20 and culminating in the Concerto Finals at Cleveland’s historic Severance Hall on Friday, July 26. There, three finalists will perform complete concertos with The Cleveland Orchestra, under the direction of Bramwell Tovey.

At stake is a grand prize of $20,000, in addition to second and third prizes of $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. Each finalist’s prize package also includes a full four-year tuition scholarship to attend the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

The excitement begins Saturday, July 20, on the beautiful Oberlin campus, with the first of six days of performances in Warner Concert Hall presented by violinists ranging in age from 13 to 18. Semifinal action takes place on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (July 20, 21, and 22), followed by a Concerto Round on Tuesday, July 23. The Recital Round—in which the remaining field of six participants will be reduced to three—is slated for Wednesday evening, July 24.

All rounds are live-streamed on The Recital Round at Oberlin and Concerto Finals at Severance Hall will be broadcast on WCLV FM 104.9, Cleveland’s classical music station. The Recital Round will be broadcast on delay on Thursday evening, July 25. Host Robert Conrad will be on hand to broadcast the Concerto Finals live from Severance Hall on Friday, July 26.

All performance rounds at Oberlin Conservatory are free and open to the public.

In addition to the top prizes, the competition awards $1,500 to each of the fourth- through sixth-place finishers and also grants an Audience Prize of $500. These are presented at the conclusion of the Recital Round on July 24. An Honors Concert, featuring violinists who delivered the most moving performances during the week, will be held in Oberlin Thursday, July 25.

“The Cooper Competition provides these young musicians with a rare opportunity befitting their profound talent,” says Acting Dean of Oberlin Conservatory William Quillen. “We are pleased to reward these young artists with the opportunity to perform with one of the world’s premier orchestras in a concert venue the caliber of Severance Hall. As we celebrate 10 years of the Cooper Competition, we also extend our gratitude to Thomas and Evon Cooper and the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra, without whose support and collaboration this remarkable experience would not be possible.”

The 2019 Cooper Competition field includes violinists from the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, and Taiwan. Each participant was competitively selected through a live audition or video-recorded submission. Two of this year’s violinists—18-year-old Mai Matsumoto of San Jose, California, and 17-year-old Alexandra Woroniecka of Stony Brook, New York—also took part in the 2017 Cooper Competition.

The 2019 Cooper jury consists of esteemed violinists from the Oberlin Conservatory faculty and acclaimed performer-pedagogues from throughout the world. They are led by Gregory Fulkerson, a longtime professor of violin at Oberlin who retired in spring 2017. A cornerstone of the Cooper Competition’s success, he will serve as director and jury chair for the final time this year.

Fulkerson will be joined by fellow Oberlin violin faculty Sibbi Bernhardsson, a former longtime member of the Pacifica Quartet; and Marilyn McDonald, a founding member of the Smithson Quartet and the Castle Trio.

Also on the jury are French violinist Radu Blidar, the founder and president of the Vibrarte International Music Competition in Paris and faculty at the Royal College of Music in London; Yi Huang, an associate professor at Xinghai Conservatory of Music and president of the Asian Suzuki Society; Almita Vamos, a six-time winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching and a professor at the Chicago College of Performing Arts and the Music Institute of Chicago; and Naoko Tanaka, a faculty member at the Juilliard School, New York University, and Aspen Music Festival and School, and a founding member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

The complete schedule is available online at the Cooper Competition website.

TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW: All performances at Oberlin are free. Tickets for the July 26 Concerto Finals at Severance Hall range from $13-$30, and children under 18 are eligible for free admission with the purchase of an adult ticket. More information can be found at the Cleveland Orchestra website or by calling 800-686-1141.

ABOUT THE COOPER COMPETITION: Founded in 2010, the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition is dedicated to presenting an important international competitive opportunity to highly accomplished 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 pianist George Li and violinist Johan Dalene, both of whom have accumulated numerous international competition prizes and cultivated outstanding performance careers.

ABOUT OBERLIN AND THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA: The relationship between Oberlin College and The Cleveland Orchestra dates back a century, beginning with John Long Severance, an 1885 Oberlin graduate, flutist, and principal benefactor of Severance Hall, home of The Cleveland Orchestra. 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 240 performances on campus to date. For more information on The Cleveland Orchestra, please visit


Competition Schedule

Events July 20-25 are free and are held in Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall, accessible via the 77 South Professor St. (west) entrance. Free parking is adjacent to 45 South Professor St. All competition performances July 20-25 are streamed live online at

Semifinal Round (6 sessions)

Saturday, July 20         1:30-4:40 p.m. and 7-10 p.m.

Sunday, July 21           1:30-4:40 p.m.  and 7-10 p.m.

Monday, July 22          1:30-4:40 p.m.  and 7-10 p.m.


Concerto Round (2 sessions)

Tuesday, July 23          1:30-4:30 p.m.  and 7-10 p.m.


Recital Round

Wednesday, July 24    7-10 p.m.

Broadcast on WCLV 104.9 FM on Thursday, July 25, at 7 p.m.


Honors Recital

Thursday, July 25        7-9 p.m.


Concerto Finals with The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall in Cleveland

Friday, July 26             7:30 p.m.

Broadcast live on WCLV 104.9 FM

Tickets: 800-686-1141 or Severance Hall Box Office at



Claire Arias-Kim, 17, Chicago, Illinois, United States

Rabia Brooke, 18, Chicago, Illinois, United States

Isabella Brown, 16, Gurnee, Illinois, United States

Eric Charles Chen, 18, Princeton, New Jersey, United States

Sylvia Yun-Jun Chen, 13, Taipei, Taiwan

Albert Gang, 17, Irvine, California, United States

Yiyang Hou, 14, Shanghai, China

Yixuan Jiang, 14, Shanghai, China

Aram Kim, 16, Latham, New York, United States

Haeun Honney Kim, 18, Birmingham, Alabama, United States

Victoria Lewis, 18, Asker, Norway

Harry Dai Liang, 13, Gothenburg, Sweden

Joanne Lin, 16, Taipei, Taiwan

Sarah Ma, 16, Garden City, New York, United States

Mai Matsumoto, 18, San Jose, California, Japan

Noelle Naito, 17, Elkridge, Maryland, United States

Abigail Nishiwaki, 18, Aldie, Virginia, United States

Bjørg Pas, 14, Elverum, Norway

Enrique Rodrigues, 17, Fair Lawn, New Jersey, United States/Canada

Dongyoung Jake Shim, 18, Seoul, South Korea

Shihan Wang, 14, Beijing, China

Jia-Ying Joy Wei, 18, Taichung, Taiwan

Alexandra Woroniecka, 17, Stony Brook, New York, United States

Jin Yucheng, 17, Shanghai, China



Gregory Fulkerson, Competition Director and Jury Chair (Oberlin Conservatory)

Sibbi Bernhardsson (Oberlin Conservatory)

Marilyn McDonald (Oberlin Conservatory)

Radu Blidar (Royal College of Music)

Yi Huang (Xinghai Conservatory)

Almita Vamos (Chicago College of Performing Arts and the Music Institute of Chicago)

Naoko Tanaka (the Juilliard School and New York University)


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