COLUMBUS, Miss. -- The piano duo of Dr. Julia Mortyakova, associate professor of music and chair of The W’s Department of Music, and Dr. Valentin Bogdan, assistant professor of music, won second prize at the Ellis Duo Piano Competition.
One of the oldest and the most prestigious competitions for duo pianists in the United States, the competition was a six month-long process, beginning with a preliminary round from which the finalists were selected in October 2016. As a result, a select number of piano duo teams were invited to perform live in the competition finals, which took place April 1 at Belhaven University in Jackson.
Mortyakova and Bogdan were selected as national finalists, where they competed against duos from California and New York. The two pianists prepared and memorized a two-hour long program featuring piano four-hands works, two piano works and two concerti written for the two-piano medium. The members of the jury, who were very prominent names in the classical music world, awarded them second prize. In addition to a cash prize, this result will also offer the duo increased performance opportunities throughout the United States.
“This was both an extremely rewarding but also stressful experience,” said Dr. Mortyakova. “As a full time professor, department chair and artistic director of the Music by Women Festival, I thought the days where I would enter piano competitions were behind me, due to the nature of our busy teaching, performing, research and administrative schedules.
“When we became finalists of the Ellis Competition, however, I said to myself that we must do everything possible to perform our best, not just for recognition as performing musicians, but also to show our students that anything is possible and that with good time management and ability to multitask and prioritize, one can be successful in all types of musical and academic activity they choose to pursue.”
The Ellis Duo-Piano competition, open to citizens of the United States, was made possible by a legacy left by Annie Lou Ellis (Mrs. Edgar B. Ellis) of Birmingham, Ala., friend and benefactor of the National Federation of Music Clubs. The first competition was held in 1991, and it has continued every two years since. The competition is organized by the National Federation of Music Clubs, one of the oldest non-profit, philanthropic and educational music organizations, founded in 1898.