Cleveland Orchestra, Conservatory Announce Competition

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The Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Orchestra announce a New International Piano and Violin Competition for young musicians. The inaugural year of the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition features piano, with finals scheduled for July 30, 2010, at Severance Hall, Home of the Cleveland Orchestra.

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Orchestra are pleased to announce a new partnership that will enhance educational opportunities for young musicians while building on the historic relationship between the two institutions.

Beginning in summer 2010, Oberlin will join with the Cleveland Orchestra to offer an important new international competition for young musicians that will feature more than $20,000 in prize money and a performance with the orchestra. The Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition, sponsored by Thomas and Evon Cooper, will alternate annually between piano and violin, debuting in summer 2010 for pianists, followed by a 2011 competition for violinists. Open to musicians between the ages of 13 and 18, the competition will culminate in a final round at Severance Hall, where the top three competitors will perform a full concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra. The first-prize winner will take home $10,000, one of the largest prizes offered by an international youth competition. The Severance round of the competition will be open to the public, giving Ohioans a chance to hear some of the most promising young musicians in the world perform with an internationally renowned orchestra.

“For an aspiring musician, there is no greater thrill than performing with one of the world's great orchestras,” says Dean of the Conservatory David H. Stull. “This gift from the Cooper family will provide an extraordinary and unparalleled opportunity for young pianists and violinists from around the world. We are deeply honored that Tom and Evon have chosen the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Orchestra as hosts for this remarkable competition.”

“My wife Evon and I are thrilled to be part of this exciting endeavor,” says Tom Cooper. “We believe that it is important to encourage and support young artists in pursuing their musical aspirations, and we hope that the Cooper Competition serves to identify and showcase top youth talent from around the world for many years to come.” Cooper, a 1978 Oberlin College graduate and a member of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, is a partner in the investment firm of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Company in Boston. His wife, Evon, is a pianist. They live in the Boston area.

“This new initiative of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music invigorates our historic relationship,” says Gary Hanson, executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra. “We are pleased that our orchestra and the Severance Hall stage will be integral to the Cooper Competition, and we look forward to welcoming its gifted young musicians to Cleveland.”

The Cooper Competition
Young pianists interested in entering the inaugural 2010 Cooper Competition will first submit recorded auditions. Forty applicants will be chosen to compete in live rounds at the Oberlin Conservatory in late July 2010. After four rounds of competition at Oberlin, the top three musicians will advance to the finals at Severance Hall, where they will perform a full concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra on July 30, 2010. The top three competitors will win $10,000, $6,000, and $3,000, respectively, and those in fourth, fifth, and sixth place will be awarded $1,000 each. The top three competitors will also be awarded full four-year scholarships to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, pending admission, valued at more than $100,000 each. The audience will award an additional $500 in cash to one of the finalists, selected by popular vote. In addition to prize money, the first-prize winner will receive concert engagements with orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai, China.

The intent of all of these prizes, says competition director Robert Shannon, professor of piano and director of keyboard studies at Oberlin, is to recognize and encourage outstanding young musicians, and to establish the Cooper Competition as one of the foremost competitions of its kind. “The partnership of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music will allow us to create a unique event: a high-level piano competition in a festival atmosphere with opportunities for enrichment and education for everyone.”

The Cooper Competition evolved from the Oberlin International Piano Competition and Festival, which was held at the Conservatory each summer for 14 years, from 1995 through 2008. Directed by Shannon, the Oberlin competition also welcomed participants ages 13 to 18 and offered a first prize of $10,000. Musicians traveled from around the world to participate; in 2008, competitors came from Australia, Hungary, Columbia, China, Korea, Canada, and the U.S. The competition was suspended in 2009 while its venue, Oberlin’s Warner Concert Hall, undergoes renovation.

Like its predecessor, the 2010 Cooper Competition will include a concurrent festival component on the Oberlin campus. The festival will feature master classes, concerts, and private lessons, providing an opportunity for young pianists to refine their skills in an intensive setting. The festival is optional for Cooper Competition participants and is also open to non-competitors.

Gregory Fulkerson, professor of violin at the Oberlin conservatory, will direct the 2011 violin competition. “I am very proud that the Oberlin conservatory, with the outstanding commitment of the Cooper family, has taken this visionary step towards discovering and promoting the violin stars of the next generation,” says Fulkerson. “I am especially excited about Oberlin’s unique partnership with the Cleveland Orchestra, which provides the ideal format for what must immediately be recognized as a major international competition.”

Applications and details for both the piano and violin competitions will be posted on the Oberlin web site as they become available, at

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 the major donors for the construction of the Cleveland Orchestra’s home, Severance Hall, and John Long Severance served as the orchestra’s second board president. The Cleveland Orchestra first performed in Oberlin in 1919, six months after its founding, and it has returned to Oberlin each season since, giving 207 performance on campus to date. Members of the orchestra teach at Oberlin, Oberlin graduates are among the orchestra’s ranks—James Feddeck ’05 was recently appointed Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra—and the conservatory’s best students have been integrated into the orchestra’s performances and other special projects for years.

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music
The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, founded in 1865 and situated amid the intellectual vitality of Oberlin College since 1867, is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the United States. Renowned internationally as a professional music school of the highest caliber and praised as a “national treasure” by the Washington Post, Oberlin’s alumni have gone on to achieve illustrious careers in all aspects of the music world. Conservatory students and alumni have won top prizes in numerous international piano competitions, including the Van Cliburn, the Fryderyk Chopin, the Queen Elisabeth, the Arthur Rubinstein, the Walter W. Naumberg, the Unisa International Piano Competition (South Africa), the American Pianists Association Classical Fellowship competition, the Thailand International Piano Competition, the World Piano Competition, the Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Piano Competition, and the Busoni Competition. The Conservatory’s collection of 1,700 period and modern musical instruments includes more than 200 Steinway grand pianos. Oberlin, an All-Steinway School, is Steinway & Sons’ oldest continuous client, with a relationship dating back more than 125 years. For more information about Oberlin, visit

The Cleveland Orchestra
Long considered one of America’s great orchestras, the Cleveland Orchestra stands today among the world’s most-revered symphonic ensembles; under leadership of Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, the Cleveland Orchestra has become one of the most sought-after performing ensembles in the world. In concerts at home in Severance Hall, each summer as part of the Blossom Festival, in residencies from Miami to Vienna, and on tour around the world, the Cleveland Orchestra continues to set standards of artistic excellence, imaginative programming, and community engagement. The Orchestra enjoys unprecedented residencies in the United States and in Europe, including at the Musikverein in Vienna, the first of its kind by an American orchestra. The Orchestra will return for its fourth Musikverein residency in the autumn of 2009 as part of a nine-concert tour. The Orchestra also regularly appears at European festivals and its travels in 2008 included an eight-performance summer residency at the Salzburg Festival and a continuation of its ongoing series of residencies at the Lucerne Festival (featuring Roche Commissions, a project involving the Orchestra, the Festival, and Carnegie Hall). Domestically, the Orchestra and Welser-Möst have toured from coast to coast, and in January 2007 began an unprecedented ten-year residency project in Miami, Florida, where they perform annually at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. For more information about the Cleveland Orchestra, visit

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