Cooper International Competition for Piano Returns July 14-20

June 14, 2018

By Erich Burnett

2016 first prize winner Ryota Yamazaki performs in Severance Hall.
Seventeen-year-old Ryota Yamazaki of Japan earned top honors at the 2016 Cooper International Competition.
Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

Young pianists vie for $40,000 in cash prizes plus the opportunity to perform with The Cleveland Orchestra.

Thirty-one young pianists from around the world will take the stage in Oberlin July 14 through 20 for the ninth-annual Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition. Each of them will vie for a share of $40,000—including a $20,000 first prize.

The 2018 Cooper Competition field features performers hailing from six states and seven countries: Canada, China, Finland, Norway, South Korea, Taiwan, and the U.S.

The action begins Saturday, July 14, with the first of five consecutive days of free performances at Oberlin presented by 31 pianists, ranging in age from 14 to 18. The excitement culminates at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 20, 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 a $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-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 18. An Honors Concert, featuring standout performances from throughout the week, will be held in Oberlin Thursday, July 19.

All Oberlin performances take place in Warner Concert Hall (77 W. College St.) and 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 on the Cooper Competition's official Facebook page.

“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 Cooper Competition Concerto Finals at Severance Hall range from $13 to $30, and all students under age 18 are admitted free with a paying adult. More information can be found at the Cleveland Orchestra website or by calling 800-686-1141.

The competition’s Recital Finals at Oberlin (July 18) and Concerto Finals at Severance Hall (July 20) 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.

2018 COOPER COMPETITION JURY: The 2018 Cooper jury consists of esteemed pianists from the Oberlin Conservatory faculty and acclaimed performer-pedagogues from throughout the world. The jury is led by Cooper Competition Director Robert Shannon, also the director of the Oberlin Conservatory Keyboard Division. It includes fellow Oberlin professors Alvin Chow, Angela Cheng, Stanislav Ioudenitch, and Haewon Song. Distinguished visiting jurors include Daejin Kim (winner of the 1985 Robert Casadesus International Piano Competition—now the Cleveland International Piano Competition), Jon Nakamatsu (gold medal winner of the 1997 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and a member of the Manasse/Nakamatsu Duo), Roberto Plano (winner of the 2001 Cleveland International Piano Competition), and Martino Tirimo (winner of international competitions in Geneva and Munich, and a member of the Rosamunde Trio).

Ennian Bai (age 15), Zhejiang, China
Rufus Bordal (17), Santa Monica, California, United States
J.J. Jun Li Bui (14), Toronto, Canada 
Yangrui Cai (17), Guangzhou, China 
Kai-Min Chang (17), Changhua County, Taiwan
William Chen (15), New York, New York, United States
Eric Guo (15), Toronto, Canada
Caroline Hsu (14), Saratoga, California, United States 
Kyle Hu (15), Yorktown, Virginia, United States
Leyla Kabuli (18), Berkeley, California, United States 
Nikita Khnykin (15), Oslo, Norway 
Tyler Kim (15), Temecula, California, United States 
Adrian King (15), Silverdale, Washington, United States 
Yunchan Lim (14), Siheung-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea 
Anne Liu (16), San Diego, California, United States 
Anton Mejias (17), Helsinki, Finland 
Sihao Qin (18), Liuzhou, China 
Kasey Shao (14), Cincinnati, Ohio, United States 
Kuisma Sippola (18), Helsinki, Finland 
Arthur Wang (17), Vancouver, Canada 
Hsiyun Wu (17), Kaohsiung, Taiwan 
Lingfei Stephan Xie (17), Shanghai, China 
Biguo Xing (18), Beijing, China 
JiWon Yang (16), Seoul, South Korea 
William Yang (17), Natick, Massachusetts, United States
Yerin Yang (15), Seoul, South Korea
Tony Siqi Yun (17), Toronto, Canada
Zhang Bo (17), Hangzhou, China
Edward Zhang (15), Redmond, Washington, United States 
Jingting Zhu (16), Shanghai, China 
Ryan Zhu (14), Vancouver, Canada 

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 THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA: Under the leadership of Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, The Cleveland Orchestra has become one of the most sought-after performing ensembles in the world, setting standards of extraordinary artistic excellence, creative programming, and community engagement. The New York Times has declared it “... the best in America” for its virtuosity, elegance of sound, variety of color, and chamber-like musical cohesion. The 2017-18 season marked the Orchestra’s 100th year of concerts and the beginning of a second century of extraordinary music making, dedicated service to its hometown, and worldwide acclaim. The Cleveland Orchestra has partnered with Oberlin College’s Conservatory of Music for the annual Thomas & Evon Cooper International Competition since its inception in 2010, with each year’s competition culminating with finalists’ performances with The Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall. The Cleveland Orchestra has a long and proud history of sharing the joys and benefits of music with citizens throughout northeast Ohio. The Orchestra’s partnership with Oberlin College is one of many ongoing relationships with institutions of higher learning, including Baldwin Wallace University, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, Kent State University, the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, and Indiana University. For more information visit

You may also like…

A New Kind of Orchestra at Oberlin

November 18, 2022

This fall, Weedie Braimah started a new Djembe Orchestra, in which students learn the history and music of the Djembe from the 12th century to the present day.
The Djembe Orchestra rehearses