The 19-year pianist will now represent Victoria in the national final of the 2016 Young Virtuoso of the Year Award.

On Sunday, 19-year old pianist William Soo won Victoria’s Young Performer Award. He will now compete with other winners from around Australia in the national final of the 2016 Young Virtuoso of the Year Award to be held in Melbourne at St Johns Southgate on November 26.

William Soo is named winner of Victoria’s Young Performer Award. Photo courtesy of 3MBS

Soo, who took home a cash prize of $5,000, said that he was delighted and humbled. “What an honour to have won. I am looking forward to representing Victoria in the nationals,” he said. “Competitions are a good opportunity for aspiring musicians coming through the ranks and [for a young performer in Australia] it doesn’t get much better than this competition,” he tells Limelight. Soo is currently studying piano with Glenn Riddle at the University of Melbourne. He has given recitals in Europe and Asia, and won First Prize at the Fourth ASEAN International Chopin Competition in Kuala Lumpur, and Second Prize in the first Indonesia Pusaka International Piano Competition in Jakarta.

The judges noted that flautist Kim Falconer and cellist Charlotte Miles, both showed great accomplishment. Fourteen-year old Miles won the Audience Award worth $1,000.

Now in its 28th year, the annual Young Virtuoso of the Year Award (previously the National Young Performer Award) recognises the talent of young Australian musicians under 25. Winners from each state’s own Young Performer Award compete for the $10,000 cash prize. The other finalists this year are Benett Tsai – cello (NSW), Jade McFaul – soprano (ACT), Aaron Liu – piano (QLD), and Yundi Yuan – piano (SA).

Previous winners of the Award include pianists Hoang Pham, Ke Lin, Matthew Kam, Michael Ierace, Stephen Ma and Stephen van der Hoek; sopranos Hyeseoung Kwon, Sky Ingram and Milica Ilic; violinists Tessa Ho, Anna Da Silva Chen and Grace Clifford; guitarists Andrei Lebedev and Stephanie Jones; and clarinetist Magadalenna Krstevska, who was last year’s winner.

Pham, who won the first ever national final of the Award in 2001, representing Victoria, and who featured in Limelight‘s 2014 list of 30 Brilliant Musicians Under 30, will be one of the judges at this year’s final. Speaking to Limelight, Pham says: “Winning the competition gave me confidence that I had a voice and talent that was appreciated. It seems so little now but back then it meant the world to me, winning the Award, and it gave me the impetus to work harder and improve myself.” He will be joined by strings specialist Curt Thomson from the University of Melbourne, who is also Artistic Director of the MIMIR Chamber Festivals in Melbourne and Fort Wort Texas.

For Hyeseoung Kwon, who won the award in 2002, the experience was career changing. “I had just arrived in Australia and I didn’t know the industry very well,” she said. “I saw brilliant musicians at the competition and I was overjoyed when they announced me as the winner. It was probably the first time and the last time I competed with other instrumental players. Maybe I got some attention from the opera companies, but I really felt huge excitement and I gained lots of confidence as I had just started my operatic career. Competitions are completely different from studying and performing. After that competition, I loved singing more than ever (my life is all about singing) and I never stopped practising and working. It opened the door to a new life.”

The annual Young Virtuoso of the Year competition is run by the Australian Fine Music Network, a collaboration between Fine Music (Sydney), 3MBS (Melbourne), 4MBS (Brisbane), 5MBS (Adelaide) and ArtSound (Canberra). This year’s final will be hosted by 3MBS Fine Music.

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