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And... We have a winner! Virtual Musicale 10/7/2021

by Tom Slavicek

Special guest, Mr. Sean Sutherland , First Place winner at the 2021 Frederick Chopin International Competition for Amateur Pianists, in Warsaw, Poland.

What a special treat it was today! Sean Sutherland graced seventeen of us with his performances of Chopin pieces that earned him the first place award at this year's Chopin Competition.

Here is Sean's bio: Born in St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Sean Sutherland serendipitously discovered the piano as a child and was instantly enamored. At 15, Sean was offered a scholarship to study piano at one of the Royal Schools of Music, but had to decline under strong parental directive as he had not yet completed high school. Even though his opportunities for studying piano were limited on St. Vincent, however, he resumed his studies upon his arrival at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while earning a bachelor’s degree in music, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

After working in several industries, Mr. Sutherland pursued an MBA at McGill University in Montreal. Since graduating, he has started a niche tutorial service that specializes in standardized test preparation (SAT, ACT, SSAT, and GMAT) and lectured at McGill as an adjunct professor of international finance and information systems. Given his interest in education, Sean completed a master’s degree in focused on Learning and Design Technologies at Stanford University in 2017. Sean subsequently moved to Toronto, where is currently works as a Product Manager.

Over the years, Sean has continued to pursue his passion for classical piano music as an amateur pianist and has performed solo recitals in the US, Canada, Germany, and throughout the Caribbean. Sean has also collaborated with many instrumentalists and singers and has a keen interest in performing classical music on the steelpan. Sean has performed Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue as a soloist with the National Steel (Steelpan) Symphony Orchestra of Trinidad and Tobago in 2011 and 2014 respectively. In 2016, Sean was a semifinalist in the Van Cliburn Amateur Piano Competition and was invited to perform at Gasteig, the premier cultural center in Munich, Germany, in March 2017. Sean was also a finalist at the Boston Amateur Piano Competition in 2017 and the Piano Bridges Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2019. He placed second in Category A (age 40-50) at the Piano Lovers Over 40 in Milan, Italy, in 2019, and, most recently, won the 2021 Chopin Amateur Competition in Warsaw.

His first piece is the little known and even less often performed piece, Op.12 Variations Brillantes (1833) which he played in the first round . And Sean did bring us a brilliant interpretation, whimsical, joyful and expressive in all areas.

His next piece was the Op. 49. Fantasie. Sean played this in the second round of the competition. A "fantastic" rendition of this piece that requires the performer to switch emotional and technical approaches on multiple levels so that the entire piece sounds cohesive. Sean's dynamics and pauses are incredible. Beautiful!

Sean's final piece was the Op. 61 Polonaise-Fantasie which was featured in the third and final round. It's more of a 'fantasie' than a polonaise. Another phenomenal performance...phrasing, timing, dynamics, pedaling all coming together into a masterful interpretation.

A thoroughly enjoyable portion of our Musicale today was the question/answer sessions we had between the pieces. Thank you, Sean, for joining us from Canada and for sharing your talent with us!!

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