August 2, 2010

NEC Preparatory School Pianist George Li, 14, Wins Inaugural Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition

Prizes Include $10,000, Concerts in Beijing and Shanghai, Full Tuition Scholarship for College Study

NEC’s prodigious young pianist, George Li, won the inaugural Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition, Friday night in Cleveland.  The 14-year old’s triumph at the weeklong competition was sealed by a performance of the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Cleveland Orchestra and conductor Jahja Ling at Cleveland’s Severance Hall.  Li, a Lexington resident and ninth grader in NEC’s music program at the Walnut Hill School studies with Wha Kyung Byun

Li’s prizes include $10,000, performances with orchestra in Shanghai and Beijing, and a full tuition scholarship for college study at Oberlin Conservatory. The competition, sponsored by Thomas and Evon Cooper of Lincoln, MA, is open to young musicians age 13—18 and alternates between piano and violin. It was presented jointly by Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Orchestra. Thomas Cooper, a 1978 Oberlin College graduate and a member of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, is a partner in the Boston investment firm of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Company. His wife Evon, a pianist and teacher, studied at New England Conservatory as a child. Their two children are enrolled in the Preparatory School. 

Over 40 contestants participated in the competition, some coming from Canada, China, Finland, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, and Ukraine as well as the United States. The weeklong competition concluded Friday night when Li and two other finalists performed concerti with the Cleveland Orchestra. These performances were broadcast and streamed live over Cleveland’s celebrated classical music station WCLV-FM. Judges for the competition were: Christopher Elton of the London’s Royal Academy of Music; Stanislav Ioudenitch from the International Center for Music in Kansas City and Gold Medalist in the 11th Van Cliburn Competition; Matti Raekallio from the Juilliard School and Hochschule für Musik; and Evon Cooper.

George Li Biography

George Li, of Lexington, Massachusetts, is a student at the Walnut Hill School and the New England Conservatory Preparatory School, where he studies piano with Wha Kyung Byun.

Li has performed publicly since he was nine years old, gaining attention as a significant recitalist, chamber musician, and soloist with orchestra. He has appeared at the opening ceremony of Boston’s new Institute of Contemporary Art, at the inauguration of President Tony Woodcock at New England Conservatory, and at Boston’s Steinway Hall. He also played at New York’s Carnegie Hall for the PBS series From the Top, and he has been featured on WBZ-TV’s Liz Walker Show and ABC’s Martha Stewart Show. Li was presented by the Hilton Head International Piano Competition and by the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition in solo recitals in March and April 2010, respectively.
As an active chamber musician, Li is the pianist of New England Conservatory’s Vivace Trio. Coached by Laura Blustein of NEC’s Preparatory School, the Trio has performed on From the Top’s radio series and at the Conservatory’s annual gala, Feast of Music. The ensemble also performed for members of the U.S. Congress at the Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Li has performed with many symphony orchestras, including the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Xiamen Philharmonic in China, Symphony Pro Musica, Waltham Symphony Orchestra, Nordic Chamber Orchestra Sweden, Princeton Symphony Orchestra, Albany Symphony Orchestra, and the Lexington Symphony Orchestra. He was invited to perform Chopin’s Concerto No. 1 at Assisi in the World Festival in Italy in May 2010. Li was also invited to perform Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 with Arkady Leytush conducting the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra.

At age 6 and again at age 7, Li won first prizes in the Massachusetts Music Teachers Association piano competition. At the age of 9 he won second prizes in both the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition and the Cincinnati World Piano Competition. In 2008, at the age of 12, he won second prize in the Gina Bachauer International Piano Junior Artist Competition.

For further information, check the NEC Website.

To read a review of the final round of the competition, click here.

Photo of George Li with Cleveland Orchestra, Jahja Ling conductor by Roger Mastroianni courtesy of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115