Russian-American pianist Olga Kern is now recognized as one of her generation’s great artists. With her vivid stage presence, passionately confident musicianship and extraordinary technique, the striking pianist continues to captivate fans and critics alike. Olga Kern was born into a family of musicians with direct links to Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff and began studying piano at the age of five. She jumpstarted her U.S. career with her historic Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas as the first woman to do so in more than thirty years. Steinway Artist and First prize winner of the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition at seventeen, Ms. Kern is a laureate of many international competitions. In 2016 she served as Jury Chairman of both the Seventh Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition and the first Olga Kern International Piano Competition, where she also holds the title of Artistic Director. Ms. Kern frequently gives masterclasses and since September 2017 has served on the piano faculty of the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Additionally, Ms. Kern has been chosen as the Virginia Arts Festival’s new Connie & Marc Jacobson Director of Chamber Music, beginning with the 2019 season. Ms. Kern frequently gives masterclasses and since September 2017 has served on the piano faculty of the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Ms. Kern’s discography includes Harmonia Mundi recordings of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Christopher Seaman (2003), her Grammy Nominated recording of Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations and other transcriptions (2004), a recital disk with works by Rachmaninoff and Balakirev (2005), Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Warsaw Philharmonic and Antoni Wit (2006), Brahms Variations (2007) and a 2010 release of Chopin Piano Sonatas No. 2 and 3 (2010). Most recently, SONY released their recording of Ms. Kern performing the Rachmaninoff Sonata for Cello and Piano with cellist Sol Gabetta. She was also featured in the award-winning documentary about the 2001 Cliburn Competition, Playing on the Edge, as well as Olga’s Journey, Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg and in They Came to Play.
(CCW faculty 2018) American pianist Jon Nakamatsu continues to draw unanimous praise as a true aristocrat of the keyboard, whose playing combines elegance, clarity, and electrifying power. A native of California, Mr. Nakamatsu came to international attention in 1997 when he was named Gold Medalist of the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the only American to have achieved this distinction since 1981. Mr. Nakamatsu has performed widely in North and South America, Europe, and the Far East, collaborating with such conductors as James Conlon, Marek Janowski, Raymond Leppard, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Osmo Vänskä and Hans Vonk. He also performed at a White House concert hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Nakamatsu's extensive recital tours throughout the U.S. and Europe have featured appearances in New York's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, and in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Paris, London and Milan. He has worked with various chamber ensembles - among them the Brentano, Tokyo, Kuss, Jupiter, Cypress, Prazak and Ying String Quartets - and has toured repeatedly with the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. Together with clarinetist Jon Manasse, Mr. Nakamatsu tours continually as a member of the Manasse/Nakamatsu Duo. The Duo also serves as Artistic Directors of the esteemed Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival in Massachusetts. Mr. Nakamatsu records exclusively for harmonia mundi usa, which has released thirteen CDs to date. His all-Gershwin recording with Jeff Tyzik and the Rochester Philharmonic featuring Rhapsody in Blue and the Concerto in F rose to number three on Billboard's classical music charts, earning extraordinary critical praise. Of his most recent release on the label, a 2014 solo disc of the piano works of Robert Schumann, BBC Music Magazine states that "Nakamatsu clarifies Schumann's mid-range saturated textures to a remarkable degree, reveling in its fantastic imaginings with rapier-like precision and effortless command." Since 1997, Mr. Nakamatsu has served on multiple international piano competition juries and has also been invited as a guest speaker at numerous institutions including the Van Cliburn Foundation, Stanford University and the Juilliard School. Mr. Nakamatsu studied privately with Marina Derryberry and has worked with Karl Ulrich Schnabel, son of the great pianist Artur Schnabel.
(CCW faculty 2015, 2017, 2020) Gwendolyn Mok: Currently the Coordinator of Keyboard Studies at San Jose State University School of Music and Dance, Gwendolyn began her career at the Juilliard School of Music. She attended Yale University, where she completed her undergraduate studies, and State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she gained her Doctorate. Born in New York, Ms. Mok has appeared in many of the world's leading concert halls including The Barbican,Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and The Hong Kong Performing Arts Center. She is also frequently invited to play and record with major international orchestras most notably The London Symphony, The Philharmonia, The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, The Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra and The Residentie Orkestre of The Hague. In his 90th year, Vlado Perlemuter chose Mok to be the last student to whom he would pass on his knowledge of Ravel. In 1994, the French Ministry of Culture awarded Ms. Mok a grant to study with Perlemuter for one year. Since 1995, Mok has been performing Ravel's works in recital and was invited to teach these works at the Royal College of Music, Welsh College of Music, The Dartington International Summer School in Devon, and The San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 1996, Ms Mok made her official London debut in two concerts of Ravel in Somerset House, on a restored Erard grand piano of 1875, in the Great Room of the Courtauld Galleries. Mok's production, Ravel and the Post Impressionsists, was sponsored by Citibank UK. She was also featured in broadcasts of Ravel on BBC Radio 3, Music Matters, Woman's Hour and the World Service. Ms Mok is a recording artist for Nonesuch/Elektra, Musical Heritage Society, Cala Records, and EMI.
(CCW faculty 2016) Sandra Wright Shen has been described as a classical "pianist of the first order" and a "heartstopping beauty". With her passion, musicality, and inspiration, she aims to move hearts through music. Sandra has appeared at the Kennedy Music Center in DC, the Chicago Cultural Center, Monte Carlo Opera House, Granada Intl Music Festival, Frankfurt Cultural Center in Germany, the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Taiwan National Concert Hall, Brevard Music Festival and Masterworks Music Festival. Sandra won first prize in the 2012 International Piano Competition of France. She also won first prizes in the 1997 Hilton Head International Piano Competition, the Mieczyslaw Munz Piano Competition, the Taiwan National Piano Competition, and the Peabody Frances M. Wentz Memorial Prize. She has recorded 3 CDs, debuting with her Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto. Sandra received her BM and MM in Piano Performance from the Peabody Conservatory, under Ann Schein. She is on the piano faculty at the Brevard Music Festival, was Distinguished Visiting Professor at Furman University, and former piano faculty at Southern Illinois University. Sandra is a Steinway Artist.
(CCW faculty 2014) Kanako Inagawa: Kanako Inagawa, a national of Japan, performs a full schedule of concerts each season. Her orchestral engagements include concerts with the Warsaw Philharmonic National Orchestra of Poland, the Royal Metropolitan Orchestra, the Palo Alto Philharmonic Orchestra, and the new Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and more. Also she has performed solo concerts in the concert tour in Germany, France, Poland, America and Japan. At age two, she began her music training at the Fukuoka Music School. Ms Inagawa completed her formal music training in 1981, graduating in first place from the Toho Music University of the Tokyo Conservatory of Music, studying under Professor Akiko Iguchi, Peter Solymos, Conrad Hansen and Miecszyslaw Munz. Ms Inagawa received a Special Diploma of Musical Study from both the University Musicale Internationale de Paris and from the Vienna Music Academy. Ms Inagawa began appearing regularly as a soloist at age 16. In 1974, she performed in the prestigious 65th Anniversary concert for the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra, Jpan. In 1982, she was honored to give a command performance for the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Having won numerous piano competitions, including the Gold Medal in the All-Japan music competition, Ms Inagawa achieved the distinction of being selected to participate in the 1980 Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, Poland, A year later, she won First Prize in the Western Japan Music Competition. Ms Inagawa resides in California, U.S. and performs concerts locally and internationally.