KEVIN AHFAT WINS FIRST-EVER SEATTLE SYMPHONY PIANO COMPETITION; Ahfat Performed Final Movement of Barber’s Piano Concerto at the Opening Night Concert on Saturday, September 19; Competition, Presented in Partnership with Young Concert Artists and Washington Performing Arts, Recognizes Pianists Who Embrace Contemporary Music and Creative Programming

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Ahfat Performed Final Movement of Barber’s Piano Concerto at the Opening Night Concert on Saturday, September 19 

Competition, Presented in Partnership with Young Concert Artists and Washington Performing Arts, Recognizes Pianists Who Embrace Contemporary Music and Creative Programming

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 21, 2015

New York, NY—The Seattle Symphony Piano Competition Jury has awarded First Prize in the Piano Competition to Canadian-born Kevin Ahfat. Due to the incredibly high quality of the other two finalists, the jury decided to award Second Prizes to both Kenny Broberg of Minnesota and Vijay Venkatesh of California.  No third prize was awarded. Additionally, Kenny Broberg won the Audience Favorite Award.

Of 20-year-old Kevin Ahfat’s performance during the Symphony’s Opening Night Concert on Saturday night, The Seattle Times remarked: “First-prize winner Ahfat attacked the last movement of the challenging Barber Piano Concerto in a manner that left no question about his riveting presentation and technical finesse.”

“I was so impressed this week by the caliber of young artists who came to Seattle from all over the world,” commented Music Director Ludovic Morlot. “We approached this project as a way to seek out and mentor the next generation of artists and I’m thrilled with the results. I must first and foremost thank our Jury Chair, the incomparable Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who is our Artist in Residence this season, as well as all of the jury members, our partners, our sponsors, and our audience, who followed the entire process.”

Presented in partnership with Young Concert Artists (YCA) and Washington Performing Arts, the competition offers winners a comprehensive career overview and guidance on navigating the changing landscape of an international performance career. The winning pianist receives a $10,000 cash prize; an invitation to perform during the Seattle Symphony’s 2015–2016 Opening Night concert on September 19; an opportunity to perform with the Symphony during the 2016–2017 season; admission to the Semi-Final Round of the 2015 or 2016 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, as well as airfare and housing in New York for the Semi-Finals and Finals, if chosen; a future performance opportunity with Washington Performing Arts and consultation with YCA and First Chair Promotion on career development. Second Prize includes a $5,000 cash prize and consultation with YCA and First Chair Promotion; Third Prize was to include a $2,500 cash prize and consultation with YCA and First Chair Promotion, but will not be awarded due to the tie for Second Prize. Instead two Second Prizes will be awarded. The Audience Favorite Award was voted on by the audience at the finals, and is a $1,000 cash prize.

Pianist and YCA alumnus Jean Yves-Thibaudet served as Chair of the jury, which also included Music Director Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Symphony Principal Cello and YCA alumnus Efe Baltacıgil, Young Concert Artists Director of Artist Management Monica J. Felkel, Washington Performing Arts Director of Programming Samantha Pollack, First Chair Promotion Project Manager James Egelhofer and Seattle Symphony President & CEO Simon Woods.

All three rounds of the Competition, including a Recital Round on September 15, Semi-Finals with piano accompaniment on September 16, and Finals with full orchestra on September 18, were open to the public. In the final round, Vijay Venkatesh performed Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22; Kevin Ahfat performed Barber’s Piano Concerto, Op. 38; and Kenny Broberg performed Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F. For the Final round, Music Director Ludovic Morlot conducted the Seattle Symphony, and the event was co-hosted by Classical KING FM’s Dave Beck and KUOW FM’s Marcie Sillman.

Through this French-American-themed competition the Seattle Symphony sought to promote and recognize distinctive up-and-coming pianists eager to embrace its vision for innovation, contemporary music and creative programming. All contestants were required to perform Kenji Bunch’s jazz-inspired Premonitions during the Recital Round, including their own personal interpretation. The Seattle Symphony commissioned Premonitions from Bunch, a YCA alumnus.

For additional information about the competition, including biographical information about all the contestants and jury members, please click here.

Major sponsorship of the Seattle Symphony Piano Competition provided by members of Club 88: Nader and Oraib Kabbani, Betty Tong and Erika J. Nesholm.

The Seattle Symphony Piano Competition is made possible with support from the Steinway Piano Gallery of Seattle.

About the Winners


Acclaimed as a pianist of “exceptional breadth” whose “spirited, flawless performance stemmed from the very depth of his soul” (Estes Park News), Canadian-born pianist Kevin Ahfat is an artist recognized for his deeply passionate and highly compelling performances, possessing “a balanced mix of expressiveness and virtuosity” (Musical America). He has appeared as a solo and chamber artist in numerous venues nationally and internationally, including the Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center in Arizona, Boettcher Concert Hall in Colorado, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York, and Fumin Hall in Kyoto, Japan.

Ahfat has appeared with numerous orchestras across the United States, including the Arapahoe Philharmonic, Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra, Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Juilliard Orchestra. He has garnered numerous awards at several national and international competitions, among those being top prizes at the Arthur Fraser, Eastman and Schimmel International Piano Competitions, as well as the Juilliard Concerto Competition, resulting in his 2013 debut with the Barber Piano Concerto at Alice Tully Hall under Maestro Jeffrey Milarsky.

Currently, Ahfat is continuing his studies at the Juilliard School in New York under the tutelage of Joseph Kalichstein after having previously studied with Choong-Mo Kang.


Born in 1993, Kenny Broberg has studied the piano since age six. A resident of Minneapolis, Broberg studied for nine years with Dr. Joseph Zins. Following high school, he moved to Houston, where he currently studies at the Moores School of Music with Nancy Weems. He has also taken private lessons from or been in masterclasses with Bernd Goetzke, Menahem Pressler, Abbey Simon and Arie Vardi, among others. Broberg has appeared as recitalist and concerto soloist in the U.S., Europe and South America. His most recent concerto performances have been Prokofiev with the Louisiana Philharmonic and Tchaikovsky with the Houston Ballet. Awards include the Bronze Medal at the New Orleans International Piano Competition, Silver and Bronze Medals at the Wideman International Piano Competition, the Gold Medal at the Mika Hasler Young Artist Competition, and the Silver Medal at the Young Texas Artists Music Competition. Solo, concerto and chamber performances have been aired on the radio on NPR and KUHF 91.7 Houston. Broberg is also in great demand as a collaborative artist.


A native of Orange County, California, pianist Vijay Venkatesh has been hailed in concert review for his “sublime phrasing, tremendous and powerful virtuosity, beautiful lyricism, and mature and sensitive interpretation” in performances “equaling that of Radu Lupu, Itzhak Perlman, and Andres Segovia.” At age 14, he made his orchestral debut with the South Coast Symphony. In addition, he has performed with the Symphony Orchestras of Eastern Connecticut, Pasadena, Rio Hondo, Roanoke, Transylvania, Vienna, YMF Debut, Brevard Festival and the Brevard Music Center. His 2015–2016 season is highlighted with performances with the Tuscia Opera Festival Orchestra, UCI Symphony, and solo recitals at Soka Performing Arts Center and Irvine Barclay Theatre. He is the 2008 Grand Prize Winner of the Los Angeles Music Center’s Spotlight Awards, and a 2008 Davidson Fellow, honored with an award ceremony and reception at the Library of Congress. A 2009 alumnus of NPR’s From the Top, he took First Prizes in the 2011 Zimmerli International Solo Piano Competition and the 2004 Russian International Solo Piano Competition. He is a recipient of the 2015 Parnassus Society Prize, 2014 Birte Moller Young Artist Award and 2013 Thornton Music Faculty Award from the University of Southern California where he studies with Norman Krieger.
About Young Concert Artists

Young Concert Artists (YCA) was founded in 1961 by Susan Wadsworth to discover and launch the careers of extraordinary but as yet unrecognized classical musicians. Over 54 years, YCA has launched the lifelong international careers of renowned soloists, Founders and Directors of music festivals around the world, singers who have had starring roles at the Metropolitan Opera; orchestra conductors; and illustrious mentors at conservatories, among them, pianists Emanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, Murray Perahia, and Richard Goode, violinists Anne Akiko Meyers and Pinchas Zukerman, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and the Tokyo and St. Lawrence String Quartets. YCA’s composers include Kevin Puts, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music, and Mason Bates, winner of the 2012 Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities.

YCA artists are chosen in the annual Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York which attract more than 300 applicants on all instruments and voice. The Winners are presented in recital debuts in New York and at the Kennedy Center. YCA then provides comprehensive and ongoing support and opportunities to the artists for three or more years. YCA books concert engagements, secures new commissions and performances of works by composers on the roster, and provides publicity materials, individual career guidance, and the experience of leading master classes and educational and community residencies throughout the U.S. This sustained commitment continues until the artists move on, but a close relationship between YCA and the artists continues throughout their careers.

About Washington Performing Arts

For more than four decades, Washington Performing Arts has created profound opportunities for connecting the community to artists, in both education and performance. Through live events in venues that span the landscape of the D.C. metropolitan area, the careers of emerging artists are guided, and established artists who have a close relationship with local audiences are invited to return. In this way, the space between artists and audiences is eliminated, so that all may share life-long opportunities to deepen their cultural knowledge, enrich their lives, and expand their understanding and compassion for the world through the universal language of the arts.

Washington Performing Arts is one of the leading presenters in the nation. The organization’s inherent belief in the complete spectrum of the arts is revealed in performances of the highest quality, including classical music, jazz, gospel, contemporary dance, international music and art forms, and works that bend genres in provocative ways. The commissioning of world premieres on local stages to support artists’ creativity is critical to the mission of Washington Performing Arts. Dynamic education programs in the schools and beyond are a hallmark of the institution. Set in the nation’s capital and reflecting a population that hails from around the globe, these abundant offerings both ground us in the great heritages of the world, and allow our imaginations to fly, evoking fresh perspectives on life.

Washington Performing Arts was honored by President Barack Obama with a 2012 National Medal of Arts for bringing world-class performances to our nation’s capital, becoming only the fourth D.C.-based arts group and the first arts presenter of its kind to be so honored. Washington Performing Arts also received the 2012 Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts.

About Seattle Symphony

Founded in 1903, the Seattle Symphony is one of America’s leading symphony orchestras and is internationally acclaimed for its innovative programming and extensive recording history. Under the leadership of Music Director Ludovic Morlot since September 2011, the Symphony is heard live from September through July by more than 300,000 people. It performs in one of the finest modern concert halls in the world — the acoustically superb Benaroya Hall — in downtown Seattle. Its extensive education and community-engagement programs reach over 100,000 children and adults each year. The Seattle Symphony has a deep commitment to new music, commissioning many works by living composers each season, including John Luther Adams’ recent Become Ocean, which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music and a 2015 Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. The orchestra has made nearly 150 recordings and has received 18 Grammy nominations, two Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades. In 2014 the Symphony launched its in-house recording label, Seattle Symphony Media.

Photo Credit (top photo): Brandon Patoc Photography


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