Doctoral music student wins 3 international online piano competitions

By

Lynne MacDonald

Ka Hou “Tommy” Chan, DMA in piano performance and pedagogy at Arizona State University, was awarded first prize at three international online piano competitions.

Chan received the top prizes at the North International Music Competition in Sweden, the “Golden Classical Music Awards” International Competition and the “Grand Prize Virtuoso International Music Competition in Salzburg, Austria, in 2020 and 2021.

Chan, an international student from Macao, earned his Bachelor of Music in piano performance in 2017 at ASU, where he studied under Baruch Meir, associate professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. After completing his Master of Music degree at Texas Christian University, Chan returned to ASU to complete his doctoral studies.

“Despite the pandemic and having to take all online lessons from Macao for over one year, Tommy has made great achievements in his career,” Meir said.

Chan said, “I had doubts on whether the online lesson could offer the same experience as in-person instruction. Even though the sound delivery cannot achieve the same quality as in-person instruction, Dr. Meir offered me an excellent experience with online piano lessons. I learned a lot on many musical aspects and interpretations on piano playing.”

Since 2013, Chan has been sponsored by the Cultural Affairs Bureau in Macao for his studies abroad and has received numerous distinguished scholarships and awards. He has participated in master classes and international festivals such as the Schlern International Music Festival in Italy and the White Nights International Piano Festival in Russia.

Chan began his musical studies at the age of 7. In 2007 and 2008, he studied with Jun Yang, a former chair from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. He won first prize in the China Guangzhou National Piano Competition at age 12 and made his first concerto debut with an orchestra at 14, playing the “Yellow River” Piano Concerto. The same year, he was accepted into the pre-college program of Escola de Musica do Conservatorio de Macau (Macao Conservatory School of Music).

“I selected ASU to pursue my music studies because of the distinguished music faculty and the first-rate facilities,” Chan said. “Like most performance majors, I select a school based on the teacher and am fortunate to have studied with Dr. Meir for my undergraduate degree and now my current graduate degree. The one-on-one experience has influenced me artistically, musically, pianistically and in many other ways so that I grow to be a better musician and pianist.”

Meir said since international competitions attract students from all over the world, they often require a higher performance level. In the United States, he said he considers the Music Teachers National Association competition a very strong competition because it represents major teachers and schools from around the nation.

“Students should take competitions as part of their learning experience and as a motivator for personal growth,” Meir said. “Competitions can be a steppingstone forward, but you need to be careful not to let it affect you negatively in case you don’t win. Use it as a source for motivation.”  

Chan said the best advice he would give to students interested in competing is to not hesitate to participate in any musical event or competition once you feel you want to be a part of it.

“No single award or prize can speak for you as an artist, but the process and experience are invaluable,” Chan said.