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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Pianist excels at nationals

UH music student Geraldine Ong finished third in the national finals competition for her three-round piano performance at the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Competition. | Robert Garcia/The Daily Cougar

UH doctoral candidate Geraldine Ong walked away in third place at the national finals of the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Competition on March 22 for her piano performance in Albuquerque, N.M.

Ong gained entry into the elite competition of only seven participants in the piano category by winning first place in two preliminary regional and district competitions, one in Texas and the other in Louisiana.

“My professor, Nancy Weems, told me about the competition two days before the entry deadline and said she thought I should do it,” Ong said.

Ong’s performance at the competition consisted of three rounds in which she performed a 40-minute recital by composers such as Beethoven, Russian Alexander Scriabin and Frenchman Maurice Ravel.

Ong said she was pleased with her performance and placing in the competition, but she had to stay concentrated.

“We can’t carry our pianos around with us, so one thing I had to focus on was that I needed to control the piano because every piano is different,” she said. “That was my main focus, to make sure I got what I wanted across.

Following her completion of a bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University, Ong attained her master’s degree in music, studying under an associate professor at Northwestern University, Alan Chow.

“I saw him my freshman year, and it was my first big concert and I thought ‘Oh my goodness he’s amazing’.” Ong said. “I was blown away and thought ‘I want to study with him’.”

Similarly, Ong was drawn to the UH Moores School of Music to get her doctoral degree in the fall of 2009, by admiration of Weems, her principle teacher in private studies.

“She was a guest artist when I was at my undergraduate school, and that’s when I first met her.  When I was doing my master’s, I asked professor Chow about maybe auditioning for my doctrine at UH, and he thought ‘definitely’, as they’re good friends also,” she said.

Ong has been surrounded by music her entire life.  She was born and raised in Seremban, Malaysia, where Ong’s mother is a piano teacher.

“I’ve been taking lessons since I was three and half years old and it’s never seemed like a chore. It’s always been easy and fun,” Ong said.

She chose to come to the U.S. to further her music studies. She realized advancing in her desire to become a master pianist in Malaysia was limited.

“The music scene back home is not very developed, at least not Western music … it’s not an ideal place to study music,” she said.

Although Ong enjoys performing and competing in piano recitals, her ultimate desire is easier to achieve.

“What I’d really like to do is to be a professor at a university, to teach other students,” she said.

Weems said that Ong’s award is very prestigious.

“It is a highly visible honor for our school of music at UH,” Weems said. “As her teacher, I am very proud of her accomplishment, and of the recognition that it brings not only to her, but to our music program.”

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