REVEALED: The winners of the 2023 Pianist Amateur Piano Competition

15 September 2023
By Ellie Palmer
And the winners are...

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2023 Pianist Amateur Piano Competition! Over 90 entries were whittled down to just 31 by preliminary judges Erica Worth, Matt Ash and Melanie Spanswick. 

The winners and runners up were then chosen from the 31-strong shortlist by pianist and composer Chloe Flower, teacher and adjudicator Kathryn Page, and concert pianist Iyad Sughayer.


Classical Category

1st Place has been awarded to 38-year-old Annie Kwon!

Annie is a homemaker and piano teacher from California, USA, who performed works by Liszt, Scarlatti, Sibelius and Babajanian. Kathryn Page commented, "An extremely persuasive performance, Annie communicates all the musical needs with beauty of sound and effortless control. Bravo!’

2nd Place is awarded to German filmmaker Michael Nagel, while 3rd Place goes to Zachary Weiner, a software engineer at Google.

Annie was thrilled but also shocked when told the news of her win: "I was totally not expecting to win!" she comments. "I graduated in 2007, but after that I hadn’t performed or played in 17 years. I had a love-hate relationship with piano. I felt it was expected of me. Now I have a new love for it."


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Modern Category

1st Place in the Modern Category has been awarded to 53-year-old Rob Rennie!

Rob is a software engineer, also from California. He wowed the judges with a mixed bag of works by Monk, Mingus, Powell and Evans. Judge Kathryn Page found his Mingus Better Get Hit in Your Soul full of rhythmic and exciting energy, exuding an obvious love for the piece being communicated. In Monk’s Monk’s Dream she found ‘very atmospheric playing, with space and shape used effectively. A subtle rhythmic thread held it together with conviction.’ And in Evans’s Epilogue she was persuaded by ‘gentle and sensitive playing, creating a very wistful shape and a wonderful conclusion to the programme.

2nd place goes to Abraham Hernandez, a photographer and salsa dancer from Mexico, while 3rd is awarded to Ray Charles Bozeman, a retired Investigator from Chicago, USA.

Rob says, "Surprised would be an understatement. It’s mind-blowing. I read your magazine, cover to cover, I try to sight-read the scores first, without listening, and listen to the CD afterwards in the car. I have been reading it since issue 87." He continues, "For me, the piano is all about wood and steel… and it’s amazing to me the way that different people can make a different sound. That’s my thing. That’s what I am working on. I play two hours every day, and that’s for almost 35 years now. I don’t like to go on vacation unless there’s a piano where I am staying!"

Special mentions are given to Noah DeGarmo, Andrzej Janiga, Elena Smekalova, and Takako Ujike. 

The full shortlist:

  • Abraham Hernandez
  • Alain Mari
  • Andrzej Janiga
  • Annie Kwon
  • Ardith El-Kareh
  • Benjamin Chung
  • Cindy Hsu
  • Elena Smekalova
  • Greta Andrijauskaitė
  • Hisham Ammatouri
  • Ian Roy
  • Jessica Wang
  • Jhon Randal Ortiz
  • Katherine Cordova
  • Kayoko Komatsubara
  • Kent Holt
  • Lisa Hornberg
  • Masaya Tajika
  • Michael Nagel
  • Monica Traicu Perianu
  • Nadia Dubocq
  • Natalia Alvarado
  • Noah DeGarmo
  • Philippa Greenwood
  • Ray Charles Bozeman
  • Rebecca Kao Wang
  • Rob Rennie
  • Samie Amanullah
  • Takako Ujike
  • Timothy Meng-Kin Chong
  • Zachary Weiner

Keep your ears and eyes peeled for the launch of the 2024 Pianist Amateur Piano Competition...