• Abigail Hall

OU School of Music graduate pianist wins two competitions for outstanding performance

Originally published at OU Daily March 8, 2019

An OU School of Music graduate student was announced as one of the winners of the school’s concerto competition and state-wide competition.

Hannah Roberts, piano performance graduate student, will perform in two concerto concerts for winning the collegiate and state-wide competitions in March and April.

Roberts said she was surprised to win both competitions, as she had never won a competition before.

“It’s really exciting to be able to have an opportunity to play with orchestras, so I’m really looking forward to that,” Roberts said.

Roberts was one of three winners of OU’s competition, and one of two winners of the Oklahoma Community Orchestra’s competition. The other winners of the OU Concerto Competition are Zachary Lewis, saxophonist and professional aviation senior, and Hannah Alfaro, soprano senior.

The concerto competition is divided into undergraduate and graduate divisions and is comprised of three rounds of judging – preliminary, semi-final and final. The musicians are judged on memorization and performance of their selected piece, according to the competition website.

“It’s an important prize because it’s difficult to get engagements to play concertos with orchestras," concerto director Jonathan Shames said. “It’s a really key development for a young musician.”

Roberts' concerto piece for both competitions is “Piano Concerto No. 3” by Sergei Prokofiev. Her piano instructor, Jeongwon Ham, professor of piano, selected the piece for her competitions, Roberts said.

Roberts said with the course load of her first semester at OU, she was surprised Ham suggested she apply to the competitions, but she is glad she did.

“(I was) trying to juggle a course load … So I was like, 'You want me to do concerto?'” Roberts said. “But I love the concerto that she encouraged me to work on. It’s been a great experience.”

Roberts said she was looking forward to performing with both orchestras, as pianists usually don’t have the opportunity to do so.

“Typically in a standard orchestra or philharmonic orchestra, there will be one pianist for the orchestra, but generally they’re not — a lot of pieces don’t even call for a piano,” Roberts said. “(Pianists) do so much on our own that it can be really fun to have the opportunity to play along with other musicians.”

Ham said Roberts is a talented performer, as well as an assistant piano teacher and accompanist for OU’s theater department.

“She’s been really busy, and she’s been doing excellently,” Ham said. “I don’t know how she does (it). We are very happy to have her in our program.”

Roberts and Tomi Vetter, Oklahoma City University pianist, were announced as the two winners of Oklahoma Community Orchestra’s Young Artist Competition on Feb. 17. The duo and will perform individual concerto concerts with the orchestra on April 23, according to its website.

The Young Artist Competition is divided into four divisions – piano, woodwind, brass and percussion, and strings, said Janet Romanishin, orchestra principal flutist and competition chairperson.

Competition judges elect one winner per division and two winners overall for the annual competition. Division winners are granted a certificate and prize of $50. Overall winners perform an individual concerto concert with the Oklahoma Community Orchestra, Romanishin said.

Romanishin said the two overall winners are usually from different positions, but this year, for the first time, two pianists were selected.

“This year is kind of unusual because we had a tie in the piano division,” Romanishin said. “We thought this year was really special with these two, so we went with that.”

Romanishin said the Community Orchestra is largely volunteer-based, with the exception of the paid positions of conductor and concertmaster. The orchestra uses Oklahoma Christian University to practice and perform up to six concerts a year.

Roberts and Vetter will perform with the Oklahoma Community Orchestra on April 23 at Oklahoma Christian University.

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