Meet Annie Kwon: Winner of the 2023 Pianist Amateur Piano Competition (Classical Category)

16 September 2023
By Erica Worth
38-year-old Annie, a homemaker and piano teacher from California, USA, stormed to First Place in this year's Pianist Amateur Piano Competition with performances of works by Liszt, Scarlatti, Sibelius and Babajanian. She chats to Pianist about her win...

How does it feel?

I was surprised. I was just going to have fun, as a personal goal. And it was global. It’s a shock!

How long did you prepare?

Well, so initially I was only going to play 3 pieces: Liszt, Scarlatti, Sibelius. I randomly came across the Arno Babajanian Elegy. It just stuck to me. I had like 2 months to prepare that one! The other pieces I had worked on here and there, about six months – they were under my hands. I had to polish them – 2-3 months.


You and the piano:

I am a homemaker and a piano teacher. (I have just a few students. I have three kids. Hard to fit students in. I taught piano before I had kids. I majored in piano performance. I graduated in 2007. After that I hadn’t performed or played in 17 years. I had a love-hate relationship with piano. Felt it was expected of me. That’s why I took that break after that bachelor degree at University of California, Irvine. I had a new love for it. It made me a feel a connection this time around.

I’m 38 years old, married my childhood sweetheart and have three kids: Oldest 11, then middle 9 and youngest is 5. When I told the children I’d won, they were so excited. They said there were so proud of me and they said that they told all their friends! My piano is in the living room – so that’s where everyone can hear, and they are so tired of these pieces! My husband supports me. He was also very happy for me.


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What are your piano goals?

I was totally not expecting to win! So it’s now made me think: can I put my foot in the door again, because it’s been so long? This has given me a lot of confidence. I never really had that confidence. Can I? Should I? Maybe to have a social media presence and to perform again.

I think one of my strengths are sight-reading. I can learn a piece pretty fast, but the problem with that is that I never really know a piece. This time around I really want to get into the theory and harmony. That’s my goal. That’s my new challenge. I did have performance anxiety (memory slips etc) – maybe I didn’t really know the piece, that could be muscle memory.

My goal? Music is healing in so many ways, and I hope to share that gift with others one day.

You can read the full story of the Pianist 2023 Amateur Piano Competition results here.