20th Annual Competition Winners


First Prize $60: Ray Chen
Second Prize $45: Mia Kao
Third Prize $35: Katharine Vari
Honorable Mention: Mai Arai
Honorable Mention: Alex Lin


First Prize $250: Leo Jergovic
Second Prize $150: Dominic Pang
Third Prize $75: Gawon Choi
Honorable Mention: Anna Guan
Honorable Mention: Irene Geng


First Prize $500: Andrew Semenza
Second Prize $250: Cami Akioka
Third Prize $150: Leyla Kabuli
Honorable Mention: Andrew Lin


Ray Chen, age 9, is a 4 th grader at Gomes Elementary School in Fremont. Ray has been studying piano since 6, and his current teacher is Peyhwan Kuan. In 2015, Ray won 4 th place at USOMC Treasury of Baroque Intermediate event, Honorable Mention in East Bay Music Festival and was invited to perform at Junior Bach Festival. In 2014, Ray won 4 th place at USOMC Treasury of Russian Senior B event. In 2013, Ray won 2 nd place at Classical Master Music Festival, 4 th place at USOMC both Treasury of Romantic Junior and Treasure of Contemporary Intermediate event.

Mia Kao started her piano lesson in Spring of 2010 when she was 4 year old. At age 7, she played her first Chopin piece, Waltz in A minor, Op. Posthumous and was inspired by the art of expressing the emotions through the music. She later performed this beautiful piece at the music competition hosted by the North California Chinese Music Teacher Association in May, 2013 and was awarded the honorable mention. This was a enjoyable moment. But Mia did not feel complacent and would like to further enrich her love in the romantic music through more Chopin’s greatest art works.

Katharine Vari (9) lives in Tiburon, CA and is a 4th grade student at the Bel Aire Elementary school. She was born in New York and moved to California in 2012. She joined SFCM in 2013 and is a student of Meikui Matsushima. She is a member of her school Math club, Chorus, Percussion Ensemble and Theater Team. She also enjoys reading, soccer, tennis and learning other languages such as Mandarin and Spanish. Katharine has a vivid imagination and loves any form of creative activity. This is her first competition experience.

Mai Arai, 9 years old, is a Japanese native, and began her piano lessons at age 4. She had performed two home concerts last year. Currently she is studying piano with Ms. Machiko Kobialka.

Alex Lin, age 8, is a 3rd grader at Stratford School Los Gatos Campus. Alex started piano lessons at age 5 with Ms. Mary Kramskoy, which continued until recently. He is currently studying under Ms. Evgeniya Armishev. Over the years, Alex has played a wide range of music, from Bach, Mozart, Schubert, to Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Nazareth, Joplin and Gershwin. Besides piano, Alex plays league ice hockey and enjoys other sports such as gymnastics, tennis and swimming.

Leo Jergovic is a 6th grade student at JLS Middle School, Palo Alto. He studies piano with Dr. William Wellborn at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He participated in several piano competitions and has most recently won the CAPMT State Competition Contemporary Music Festival in 2015. In 2013 Leo won 2nd place in International Russian Music Piano Competition. He also received honorable mention in 2014 and 2011 San Francisco Chopin Competition for Young Pianists, and in 2013 Bay Area Music Association Piano Competition. Leo had numerous solo and chamber performances, including 2014 MTAC SF Festival. In addition to studying piano at SFCM, Leo studies Musicianship, Composition, and Voice with Christine Abraham . He is also enrolled in MTAC and RCM, and has been member of several choirs. In 2015, he was selected to perform with ACDA National Honor Choir. Leo enjoys acting, reading, water polo and making friends.

Dominic Pang, 11 years old, is a student of William Wellborn at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He performed at various festivals and concerts sponsored by American Protégé, American Fine Arts Festival, American Association for the Development of the Gifted and Talented, Auburn Symphony, Classical Music Masters Music Festival and Junior Bach Music Festival. He enjoys taking long hikes, playing chess and training his pets.

Gawon Melody Choi, a bright girl who loves music, is a 11 year old 6th grade student. She started playing the piano at the age of four. Currently, Melody is studying with Dr. Hyun Ju Sung since 2nd grade. In 2014, Melody won the third place at the US Open Piano Competition in the Impressionist Category Senior Division, and also won fourth place in 2015. She is an active participant for both MTNA Festival recital and MTAC Student recitals every semester. Melody enjoys playing the violin as well as the piano, and is in the CYS Associate Orchestra. She attends Lawson Middle School and has always been involved. In fourth grade, she was the Secretary of the student council, and in fifth grade, she was the President. In her spare time Melody loves to play badminton or crochet.

Anna Guan, age 11, is currently a 6th grader in Pine Valley Middle School in San Ramon, California. Anna has been studying piano with Ms. Liza Yasnogorodsky since April, 2009. She has won numerous awards including second place in the Showcase Piano Solo category in the USOMC, second place in the Chopin Competition of San Francisco, first place in the MTACSF piano competition, and third place in the American Protege International Piano and Strings Competition. It will be her second time performing in Carnegie Hall, NYC this July. Currently, she is in the Accelerated Math Pathway at school, and was selected as a student of the month of November. Her hobbies include reading and writing.

Irene Geng is a 12-year-old 7th grader at Horner Junior High, in the Fremont Unified School District. She has studied piano for about 7 years. She played in the Junior Bach Festival three times, including this year. She has also placed in competitions such as the US Open Music Competition for Showcase Category and the East Bay Music Festival. Recently, she performed in the Fremont Symphony Guild's Young Recitalists Concert. Irene enjoys reading, math, and ballet.

Andrew Semenza a 10th grader at The Harker School, is a student of Frank Levy. He has received several gold medals at the USOMC, won honorable mentions from the Marilyn Mindell piano competition, and a first place in the San Francisco Chopin Competition. He has participated in the Colburn Academy summer piano festival in 2012 and 2014, and he traveled to China in 2015 for the Beijing International Music Festival and Academy where he received in honorable mention in the festival's competition. Andrew is also a percussionist and pianist for the Harker Upper School orchestra.

Cami Akioka is a 9th grader at Palo Alto High School. She currently studies with Olya Katsman of Newark. Recently, Cami was selected as the CAPMT Concerto Competition State Winner at the convention held in Los Angeles in February. Last year, Cami won First Prize as well as the Audience Prize at the Sturm-Page Piano Scholarship Competition in Walnut Creek, California. In 2013, she won first prize in the Solo Competition at the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT) State convention held in Los Angeles. Cami won first place in the 2012 Music Teachers Association of California (MTAC) Piano Solo Competition at the state convention held in San Diego. She was the winner in the Menuhin-Dowling Young Artist Competition in 2012 and 1st runner up in 2013. She has performed at the Junior Bach Festival for the past three years and was an award winner in the San Francisco Chopin competition for young pianists in 2012. Along with her love of music, Cami is an avid soccer player and enjoys art and reading.

Leyla Kabuli is in 10th grade, and is a scholarship student of John McCarthy at SFCM Pre-College. She studies piano, violin and bassoon. She performed with Ensemble San Francisco, Waring Festival Orchestra, and also at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Peninsula Symphony Family Concert, Junior Bach Festival. In addition to first prizes in Sylvia Ghiglieri, Classical Masters, Marilyn Mindell, CAPMT Honors and Contemporary, Etude Club Berkeley, East Bay, MTAC North, American Protégé International, and several US Open competitions, she won top prizes in Virginia Waring International, Ross McKee, Pacific Musical Society, Zeiter at UoP, CAPMT Concerto, CMTANC, World Pianist Invitational, and MTNA Duet competitions. Leyla attended the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, and is selected to participate in the Southeastern and the Colburn Music Academy Piano Festivals in 2015.

Andrew Lin is a freshman at Lynbrook High School. He studies with Dr. William Wellborn. Andrew received awards in several competitions including CMTANC Youth Music Competition and International Russian Music Piano Competition. He was selected to perform in Junior Bach Festival and was chosen to perform with El Camino Youth Symphony as a piano soloist. Andrew also plays violin in the Lynbrook orchestra and Bay Area Youth Music Society. He enjoys playing chess, solving math problems, and landscape photography.