Distinguished Jury For Final

For Strings

American violinist Sean Lee is one of few violinists who dare to perform the complete 24 Caprices of Niccolò Paganini in concert. A recipient of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Career Grant, Lee has captured the attention of audiences worldwide, with performances described by the New York Times as “breathtakingly beautiful”.
Lee’s ongoing educational YouTube series, “Paganini POV”, utilizes modern technology to share a unique perspective on violin playing. In January 2022, Lee and pianist Peter Dugan released selections from Niccolò Paganini’s 24 Caprices as arranged by Robert Schumann, as an EP and video series titled “Paganini X Schumann: 9 Caprices”, after giving the first performance of the complete 24 Caprices in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s 52-year history.
Lee’s debut album was released by EMI Classics, and reached the iTunes top 20 classical bestsellers list. In 2018, Lee collaborated with pianist Peter Dugan to release a second album, SONGBOOK, featuring songs from all over the world from classical to jazz. As a soloist, Lee has appeared with orchestras including the San Francisco Symphony, Jerusalem Symphony, Israel Camerata Jerusalem, and Utah Symphony, and recital appearances have taken him to Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Festival di Carro Paganiniano of Italy, and Vienna’s Konzerthaus. A top prizewinner at the “Premio Paganini” International Violin Competition, Lee embraces the legacy of his late mentor, violinist Ruggiero Ricci, who made the first solo recording of the 24 Caprices in 1947.
Lee has collaborated in performances with Itzhak Perlman, Sir James Galway, Deborah Voigt, and members of the Emerson and Guarneri String Quartets. With the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Lee has performed numerous times at Lincoln Center, as well as on tour internationally at venues including the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague, Czech Republic; LG Arts Center in Seoul, Korea; Shanghai Concert Hall in Shanghai, China; and the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia. Lee also performed for PBS’s first international production of Live from Lincoln Center, “Odyssey: The Chamber Music Society in Greece”.
Lee currently resides in the Capital Region of New York State. Born in Los Angeles, Lee studied in Southern California with Robert Lipsett of the Colburn Conservatory, and with violin legend Ruggiero Ricci. Moving to New York City at age 17, Lee studied at the Juilliard School with the internationally acclaimed Itzhak Perlman. At the Juilliard School, Lee earned both Bachelor and Master of Music Degrees, and received the William Schuman Prize upon graduation.
Lee performs on violins made by Samuel Zygmuntowicz in 1995 and David Bague in 1999, and a bow made circa 1890 by Joseph Arthur Vigneron.

Lauded as one of the most prominent violinists of today, Ju-Young Baek enjoys an extensive international career. Many of world’s important venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center in New York, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Suntory Hall in Tokyo, have presented her in recitals as well as a soloist, with the NHK Symphony, London Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra, China National Orchestra, Finnish Radio Orchestra, Singapore Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic, KBS Symphony Orchestra among others. Also active as a chamber musician, Ms. Baek has performed at the festivals of Marlboro, Ravinia, Aspen, Great Mountains, Naantali, Bridgehampton, as well as Casals Festival in France, Beethoven Festival in Poland and YCA CHANEL Festival in Tokyo. She was the leader of the Sejong Soloists, and one of the founding members of Chamber Music Society of Kumho Art Hall, and now leads ensemble OPUS, a chamber music ensemble based in Seoul.

Winner of numerous prizes of prestigious international competitions, Ms. Baek is a laureate of Indianapolis, Paganini, Sibelius, Long-Thibaud, and Queen Elisabeth International Competitions, to name a few. Her career was launched after winning 1st prize at YCA Auditions in New York City and the Astral Artists of Philadelphia. Her orchestra solo debut  at Lincoln Center with New York Chamber Orchestra was highly praised by Kurt Masur, then Music Director of New York Philharmonic.

In 2007, Ju-Young Baek gave a record-making performance in which all 12 of Bach and Ysaye solo violin works were performed in one day.

Violinist Ju-Young Baek released her first CD in Japan with Brahms and Bruch concerti to critical acclaim, followed by another solo violin repertoire album consisted of Bartok, Bach, Isang Yun, Schnittke, also published in Japan. Her recording of Penderecki and Szymanovski violin concerti with Royal Philharmonic was released in London, which received rave reviews. In 2020, in celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, Ju-Young released a complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas recording, under Sony Label.

Ms. Baek holds degrees from The Curtis Institute of Music, The Juilliard School, and  Conservatoire National Superieur de Paris. She was appointed as the youngest violin professor in 2005 at the Seoul National University, which made national headlines in Korea.

Professor (Fu Jen Catholic University of Taiwan), Head of APA Strings (School of Music)

Born in Vienna of Chinese parents, Michael Ma was taught the violin initially by his father before being accepted at age 14 to the Curtis Institute and the New School of Music, Philadelphia, to study under Ivan Galamian and Adolph Brodsky. Upon graduating, he began performing with the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia and founded the New Art String Quartet which toured throughout Europe, United States and the Middle East.
He has appeared frequently as soloist, and held the position of concertmaster with many orchestras including the Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, the Mainly Mozart Festival, San Diego, and the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. Prior to his appointment as Head of Strings at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 1996, he was Professor of Violin at the University of Oklahoma.

For Cello

Born in Seoul, South Korea, cellist Clara Minhye Kim has performed as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician throughout Canada, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Switzerland, Thailand, and the U.S. She has been a guest performer and faculty member at the Jerusalem Music Center in Israel, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and Perlman Music Program in the U.S., Seoul Music Festival, Busan Music Festival, and Pyeongchang Great Mountains music festivals in Korea, Beauvais and Festival Music Alp in France, and Morningside Music Bridge in Poland.

As a recipient of numerous scholarships and fellowship grants from Juilliard, New England Conservatory (BM), and Yale and Columbia universities (MM, EdDCT); her principal teachers included Channing Robbins, Laurence Lesser, and Aldo Parisot

Kim founded and heads the cello section of the New York Music Competition, which has been sponsored by the Korea Times since 2007, and she conducts master classes throughout the world. She has served as an adjudicator for various national and international competitions and has recorded for the CRI, SNK, and Albany record labels. Her book on cello method was published by the Korea Economic Daily and Business Publications Inc.

In 2011, she was chosen by the U.S. State Department as one of the Korean-American representatives in the arts for South Korean President Lee and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton. Kim’s students have been recognized at numerous national and international competitions and awards including the Jack Cooke, Janos Starker, Irving Klein, Johansen, Andre Navarra, Pablo Casals, and Young Tchaikovsky competitions. In addition to being on the Juilliard college and Pre-College faculties, she is also on the Columbia faculty.

Winner of the Philadelphia Orchestra Greenfield Competition, Korean-born cellist Nayoung Baek made her American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2000. She has appeared as soloist with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, DuPage Symphony Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic and Korean Chamber Ensemble at major venues, such as the Academy House in Philadelphia and the Rheingau Musik Festival in Frankfurt, Germany. Recent highlights include performances of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with the Ulsan Symphony Orchestra, Wonju Philharmonic Orchestra and Greenwich Village Orchestra in New York City and Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Macau-Hong Kong-Taipei Symphony Orchestra for its New Year’s Concert in Macau, China.

At the age of 15, Baek became the youngest winner in the history of the prestigious Choong Ang Times competition in Korea and also garnered the Virtuoso Prize at the first Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in Moscow, Russia. Baek was a prizewinner in the Gyeongnam International Competition (in memory of Isang Yun) and won first prize in Hudson Valley Philharmonic Competition and Holland-America Music Society Competition. Her recital appearances have included a New York-debut recital at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, presented by the Korea Music Society, and the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series in Chicago. An avid chamber musician, Baek has participated in and performed at the Marlboro Music Festival, Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Casals Festival in Prades, Aspen Music Festival and Isaac Stern Seminar in Israel. She has been featured at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Salle Gaveau in Paris and Cadogan Hall in London, and on NPR’s “Performance Today.” She has toured twice with Musicians From Marlboro, playing the Mendelssohn Octet and Janáček Quartet.

Baek studied with Orlando Cole at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She continued her studies at Yale University for her master’s degree and at The Juilliard School for her Artist Diploma with Aldo Parisot, who awarded her the Aldo Parisot Prize at the end of her studies. She completed her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Stony Brook University, where she studied and performed with Colin Carr. Baek served as an adjunct faculty member at Kean University and is a member of the Sejong Soloists and East Coast Chamber Orchestra.

For Piano

Uniquely combining the superlative technique of a classical virtuoso with his prow- ess in jazz, world music and free improvisation, pianist, composer and arranger Matt Herskowitz has carved out a unique and personal voice in music.

Matt’s recent releases combine his expertise and experience in both classical and jazz into a unique fusion. His latest solo project, Chopin – Etudes en jazz, features his excit- ing new vision of Chopin’s virtuosic masterpieces, weaving jazz language and im- provisation into Chopin’s original music. His filmed performance at Montreal’s Salle Bourgie last year is now available on Medici tv.

Matt’s latest solo album, Mirror Image (Justin Time Records), features his original jazz arrangements of pieces by Ravel, Satie, Schubert and Gottschalk, as well as his own compositions in his unique hybrid of jazz and classical styles. The album received much critical praise, with one reviewer summing it up this way: “Any attempt to categorize Mirror Image, pianist Matt Herskowitz’s second solo album for Justin Time, as either jazz or classical will be resoundingly thwarted, so seamlessly are the two integrated in its ten performances… What makes Herskowitz’s playing so satis- fying is that, aside from the exceptionally high calibre of musicianship demonstrat- ed, said reconciliation is realized organically. There’s nothing awkward or contrived, in other words, about the integration, especially when decades of playing have facil- itated a melding of contemporary jazz harmonies and classical sophistication that’s as natural as breathing.” (Textura)

As an arranger, Matt has collaborated with many noted artists and producers. In addition to his hugely popular Bach à la Jazz, which he arranged and performed for the animated film The Triplets of Belleville, Matt and his trio were featured on Barry Manilow’s In The Swing of Christmas, which was nominated for a Grammy award for “Best Traditional Pop Album”.

A graduate of The Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music, Matt is original- ly from Rensselaerville, New York, and has made Montreal his home since 1999.

An internationally acclaimed pianist, educator and ambassador for the arts, Michelle Kim has performed in concert halls throughout the US, Europe and Asia including performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Caramoor, New Jersey Performing Art Center, Sejong Cultural Center, Hong Kong Cultural Center, LACMA and Chicago Cultural Center, among others. She has performed as soloist with numerous orchestras across the world including the New Jersey Symphony, the Brevard Music Festival Orchestra, the Seoul Philharmonic, the Xiamen Philharmonic, the Bergen Philharmonic, Bangor Symphony, Ridgefield Symphony, Reading Symphony Brooklyn Symphony, the Orchestra del Teatro Massimo di Catania, and many others. Her performances have been televised in the US, Europe and South Korea and broadcast on radio stations throughout the US and abroad.

An advocate for young artists and disadvantaged youth, Michelle is motivated by a profound belief in music’s power to transform lives. In 2009, she founded Hong Kong Generation Next Arts (HKGNA), a Hong Kong Charity dedicated to nurturing artistic excellence and personal success in young artists and changing lives through music. In 2011, she was awarded ‘a Hong Kong & Shenzhen Lifestyle Award’ by the Southern Metropolis Daily for being an ambassador for culture and performing arts and promoting youth development in Hong Kong. Featured as one of the “Inspiring Women of Hong Kong” in the October 2013 Anniversary Issue of Marie Claire, she has performed numerous concerts to raise money for Hong Kong Charities including performances with violinist Lu Siqing at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and “Concert of Power” with renowned evangelist and motivational speaker, Nick Vujicic. Michelle was invited to speak at TEDxWanchai and shared a talk “Finding the True Gift of Music.” She was also invited by Humanitarian Affairs, UK, in partnership with the Hong Kong Government to speak at the 6th University Scholars Leadership Symposium, which was attended by over 700 student leaders representing 69 different countries. Recently, Ms. Kim received the 2020 Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism Award from the South Korean Government for her dedication and contribution to Korean classical  music abroad and enhancement of the reputation of Korea.

Born in Seoul Korea, Ms. Kim began her musical training at age four. At age ten, she gave her orchestral debut with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. She went on to graduate from The Juilliard School earning both a Bachelors and Masters of Music. She was also the recipient of the prestigious Arthur Rubinstein Award and garnered top prizes in numerous international competitions.

Hailed for his “Apollonian virtuosity and sensitive tone,” multi-award winning pianist-composer Zhen Chen has performed as a soloist and chamber music artist at prominent music venues in USA, Europe and China, such as Stern Auditorium, Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall, David Geffen Hall of Lincoln Center, Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center, and China National Centre for Performing Arts. His live performances and recordings have been broadcasted by Chicago WFMT 98.7, Princeton WPRB 103.3, WCNY Classic FM, and China Central Television, among others.

Mr. Chen has worked with prominent violinists Maxim Vengerov, Cho-Liang Lin, and outstanding instrumentalists of the New York Philharmonic and the Orchestra of Metropolitan Opera in concert and recording engagements. He is an official collaborative pianist of the Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition (SISIVC) and the International Music Competition Harbin (IMCH). His recording Brahms: The Complete Sonatas for Violin and Piano in collaboration with Elmira Darvarova, former concertmaster of the Orchestra of Metropolitan Opera, has been recently released by German label Solo Musica and distributed by Sony Music and received plaudits from listeners and critics worldwide. Spain classical music magazine RITMO praised this recording as an “exceptional expressive flight to the height of classic interpretations of this [Brahms’] music.”

Mr. Chen wears another hat as a performer-composer who bridges Eastern and Western sensibility and musicality. His cross-culture and cross-genre composition works were crystallized in the albums ERGO: New Music for Piano and Chinese Folk Instruments (Navona/Naxos, 2017) and On & Between: New Music for Pipa and Western Ensembles (Navona/Naxos, 2018). The latter won the Gold Medal of Global Music Awards for Best Show top honor, Best Album, and Best Instrumentalists. As an avid recording artist, Mr. Chen has been a voting member of the Grammys (The Recording Academy) since 2017.

Mr. Chen received a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and a master’s degree in piano performance under Arkady Aronov at Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where he also earned a master’s degree in collaborative piano and chamber music with Heasook Rhee. He joined the piano and the chamber music faculty of Manhattan School of Music Precollege in 2022 and was inducted into the Steinway & Sons Teacher Hall of Fame in 2023.