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Young Pianists Vie for Top Honors at the 2014 Cooper Competition

June 25, 2014

By Erich Burnett

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

Student pianists hailing from nine countries will converge on the Oberlin campus July 19-25 for the fifth-annual Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition.

Presented by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cooper Competition features performances from 28 musicians ranging in age from 13 to 18, each of them vying for $20,000 in prize money—including a top prize of $10,000.

The competition begins with five days of preliminary-round performances on the Oberlin campus: Semifinal Rounds Saturday through Monday, July 19-21; a Concerto Round on Tuesday, July 22; and Recital Finals on Wednesday, July 23.

Three finalists will take part in the Concerto Finals on Friday, July 25, at Severance Hall in Cleveland. Each finalist will perform a complete concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Jahja Ling. In addition to cash prizes, all three finalists will be offered full-tuition scholarships to attend the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

All performances at Oberlin—including an Honors Recital on Thursday, July 24—take place in Warner Concert Hall and are free and open to the public. Tickets for the Concerto Finals at Severance Hall range from $15-$25, with complimentary admission available for students.

Cleveland's public radio station WCLV 104.9 FM will broadcast the Recital Finals and Concerto Finals on Wednesday, July 23, at 7 p.m. and Friday, July 25, at 8 p.m.

"The Cooper Competition provides an unparalleled opportunity for talented young musicians to perform with one of the world's great orchestras," says Dean of the Conservatory Andrea Kalyn. "We look forward to sharing in the excitement with our audiences both at Oberlin and at Severance Hall, and we are forever grateful to the Cooper family for making this wonderful competition possible."

Selected through video auditions, this year’s Cooper participants represent China, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Japan, and all corners of the United States. They were selected from an initial pool of more than 90 applicants from 12 countries.

Each participant will be critiqued by a jury made up of distinguished performers and pedagogues including Oberlin piano faculty Angela Cheng, Alvin Chow, Monique Duphil, Robert Shannon ’71, Haewon Song, and Peter Takács; Christopher Elton; Thomas Hecht ’82; John O’Conor; Nancy Weems; and Dan Zhaoyi. Oberlin’s Robert Shannon is the director of the competition.

Tickets for the Concerto Finals at Severance Hall can be purchased through the Cleveland Orchestra by calling 800-686-1141 or visiting

All performances at Oberlin are streamed live and can be accessed by clicking “Listen Live!” at Follow Oberlin Conservatory on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the competition.

For more information, including a complete schedule and participant information, visit

ABOUT THE COOPER COMPETITION: Sponsored by Thomas and Evon Cooper, the Cooper International Competition debuted in summer 2010 for pianists, followed in 2011 by a competition for violinists; the competition alternates annually between the two instruments. Both formats are open to musicians between the ages of 13 and 18. Mr. Cooper is a 1978 Oberlin College graduate and a member of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees; his wife, Evon, is a pianist and private piano teacher. They reside near Boston.

OBERLIN AND THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA: The relationship between Oberlin 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. Severance and his wife were major donors for the construction of the Cleveland Orchestra’s home, Severance Hall. The Cleveland Orchestra first performed at Oberlin in 1919, and has returned each season since—totaling more than 200 performances to date.

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