Meet the Jury

Competition Judges
Raffi Besalyan
Raffi Besalyan, Chair

Hailed as “a true heir of the mainstream of Russian pianism, like Horowitz” (Chopin Magazine, Japan), “a keyboard phenomenon" (Fanfare Magazine), “a formidable pianist with a commanding presence and rich interpretive gifts” (American Record Guide), ”a master of his art” (The Record Geijutsu Magazine, Japan), Raffi Besalyan has established an international reputation of a magnetic and passionate performer.


Associate Professor of Piano at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Dr. Raffi Besalyan has toured North and South America, Europe, Russia, and Asia. His performances have been applauded in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall (New York City), Kennedy Center (Washington D.C.), Orchestra Hall (Chicago), Atlanta Symphony Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center (Detroit), Moscow Conservatory's Rachmaninoff Hall and Maly Zal (Russia), Izumi Hall and Phoenix Hall (Japan). He dazzled his audiences appearing as a soloist with many prominent orchestras, including the Osaka Symphony Orchestra in Japan, the Orchestra Sinfonica Del Festival Di Chioggia in Venice, Italy, the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, Yerevan Symphony Orchestra in Armenia,  Belgorod, Symphony in Russia, Kharkov Symphony in Ukraine, the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, and Moscow Chamber Orchestra among others. Besalyan’s solo recitals have also been broadcast live on National Public Radio. Critics on both sides of the Atlantic have praised his performances for their virility, poetry and extraordinary technical command.


Among his competition awards are top prizes received from the Josef Hofmann International Piano Competition, Artists International Competition, the New York Frinna Awerbuch International Competition, and the MTNA National Piano Competition.


Besalyan visits Japan on a yearly basis for concerts, master classes and adjudication for PTNA, Osaka International Music Competition and the International Chopin Competition in Asia arranged by IMC Music in Tokyo and MAS management in Osaka.

In 2012 Besalyan established himself as an award-winning recording artist, receiving international accolades for his album “Dance, Drama, Decadence” (IMC Music, Japan). The album received the prestigious Jun-Tokusen Award from The Record Geijutsu, Japan’s leading classical music magazine, and was chosen as the “Classical Album of the Month” by Mainichi Shinbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers. “Dance, Drama, Decadence” was selected as the “Best New Release of the Month” by Tokyo FM, a prominent radio channel, where the CD premiered in its entirety. In addition, Ongaku no Tomo of Japan recommended and archived the CD as a study reference for music students and professors alike. Fanfare Magazine featured Besalyan in an extensive interview followed by rave reviews of the album, and another glowing review appeared in American Record Guide. Besalyan was also interviewed by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Norman Gilliland on The Midday, and Dance, Drama, Decadence was aired on WPR (Madison, WI) and KHPR (Honolulu, HI). The album features virtuoso works by Rachmaninoff, Liszt, and Ravel and premiere recordings of colorful folkloristic pieces by Armenian composers Komitas and Baghdassarian. Besalyan is also featured on “Bach-Busoni Edition, Vol.I” for Koch International Classics. Besalyan’s first critically acclaimed recording of solo works by S. Rachmaninoff and A. Babajanian for the GRAMMY® Award-Winning record label Sono Luminus entitled "The Return" was released in March of 2015, and is distributed by Naxos. “The Return” has been aired on several radio stations across the U.S. and Canada, such as the NPR, WGBH Boston, WRUV Vermont, the SiriusXM Washington D.C., Wisconsin Public Radio, The King FM Seattle, WFMT Chicago, The Grand FM Ontario and CBC Public Radio. WQXR, New York’s premiere classical radio station featured the album as the New and Noteworthy Release of September 2015.


Native of Yerevan, Armenia, Besalyan studied at the Tchaikovsky Special Music School for Gifted Children. He received his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory as a student of Sergey Barseghyan. He received an additional Master of Music degree from Rowan University under Veda Zuponcic, and studied at the Manhattan School of Music with legendary American pianist Byron Janis and Sara Davis Buechner. His studies at the Moscow State Conservatory included classes with Alexei Nasedkin, Victor Merzhanov and Naum Shtarkman.

Former Professor of Piano at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Rowan University in New Jersey, Besalyan has also been a guest artist/teacher for Festival Musica in Laguna in Venice, Italy, the International Music Festival at Rowan, the Cap Ferret International Music Festival in France, and the International Summer Music Performance Program at Anatolia College in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Svetozar Ivanov
Svetozar Ivanov

Pianist Svetozar Ivanov has made numerous appearances as recitalist and orchestra soloist in Europe and North America. All Music Guide and Fanfare Magazine praised his recent solo CD’s; the CD “Naked Tango” was called “superbly original, quite moving, personal and musically absorbing” while his CD “Vers la flamme” was celebrated for performances which were “played with aplomb, panache and complete conviction” and interpretation “filled with sensual longing, anguished yearning, anxious dread and provocative energy”.  Regarding his CD “Echo” one reviewer wrote: “Ivanov’s most distinctive gift as a pianist is his ability to draw us inward, which imparts the feeling that we’re approaching a mystery”. Svetozar Ivanov’s most recent album “Dream Images” was described by Fanfare Magazine as “superb and fascinating ” and hailed for “performances of purified beauty that can leave you breathless.”

Recent performance venues include Carnegie, Merkin, and Steinway Halls in New York City, Salle Gaveau in Paris, Guildhall, Royal College, and Goldsmith in London, Mozarteum in Salzburg, Splendor and Bethaniënklooster in Amsterdam, Pianotune Festival in Belgium, PianoEchos and Autunno Musicale Festivals in Italy, Razumovsky Salon in Vienna, Volt Zsinagoga in Gyor, Salon Christophori in Berlin, Seiler Piano Festival in Crete, Walled City Festival in Northern Ireland, “Salon des Arts” and “Sofia Music Weeks” in Bulgaria, Festival “Peter the Great” in the Netherlands, RNCM in Manchester, Royal Academy of Music in Denmark, Irish Academy of Music, Chautauqua Festival in New York, Killington Festival in Vermont, Sequoia Concerts in San Francisco, as well as numerous concert series at universities throughout the US.


Svetozar Ivanov is Professor of Piano at the University of South Florida, serves as Artist Faculty at Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival in Vermont, Brancaleoni International Music Festival in Italy, and is the Artistic Director of the Steinway Piano Series at USF. 

thumbnail_Yakov Kasman, high resolution
Yakov Kasman

Yakov Kasman’s debut in America in 1997 as Silver Medalist in the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth was the culmination of several competition triumphs and tours in Europe and the Middle East, including prizes at the 1991 Valentino Bucchi Competition in Rome, the 1991 London World Piano Competition, the 1992 Artur Rubinstein International Competition in Tel Aviv, and the 1995 International Prokofiev Competition at St. Petersburg.


Since his American debut, he has given concerts in the United States, South America, Europe, Russia and Asia, including recitals in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Paul, Atlanta, and Birmingham. He has appeared as soloist with more than seventy orchestras including the Buffalo, Oregon, Pacific, Syracuse, Memphis, Miami, Ft. Worth, Nashville and Alabama symphonies, Athens State Orchestra, the Orchestre de Lille and Orchestre Philharmonique de Montpellier in France, the Singapore Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, Orquestra Simfonica de Baleares (Spain), Daejeon Philharmonic Orchestra (South Korea) and the Moscow Philharmonia Orchestra.

Kasman has fifteen studio CD recordings on the Calliope label. His two-CD set of the recordings of the complete sonatas of Prokofiev was awarded the “Grand Prix de la Nouvelle Academie du Disque” in France in 1996. Other CDs include solo works by Haydn, Scriabin, Stravinsky, and Rachmaninov. The International Piano Quarterly magazine recommended his CD of Moussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” as one of 14 equally ranked best in a survey of recordings over the past 75 years. His recording of Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1, and Schnittke’s Concerto for Piano and Strings, released in 2000, received the “Choc du monde de la musique” award in France, is rated highest for artistry and sound quality by Classics, and referred to as “superlative” in the American Record Guide. He has also recorded two CDs with Harmonia Mundi, the most recent one with the Pacific Symphony includes Piano Concerto No. 2 by Lukas Foss, released in 2001. In 2003 he completed a recording of all of the Scriabin piano sonatas and in 2004 recorded an All-Tchaikovsky CD featuring “The Seasons” and Grand Sonata in G-Major (Rated 10/10 by in December 2005). In 2007 he completed a four-CD set of the chamber music of Shostakovich with the Talich Quartet on the Calliope label.

Yakov Kasman is also active as a teacher and adjudicator. He was a jury member of the Busoni International Piano Competition (Bolzano), International Piano Competition in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz (Kiev), the Corpus Christi International Competition, "Merzlyakovka invites friends" All-Russian Piano Competition in Moscow, Kalinnikov International Piano Competition in Orel and for four years has judged the Rocky Mountain Amateur Piano Competition (Colorado Springs). He has been a guest artist and faculty at the Piano Texas International Academy and Festival (Fort Worth), and for several years at the International Summer Music Academy in Kiev.


Born in the city of Orel, near Moscow, Yakov Kasman began his piano studies at the age of five. A graduate and postgraduate of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and previously a professor of piano at the Music College of the Conservatory, he is now the Distinguished Professor of Piano and Artist-in-Residence at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. His students are winners of regional, national and international competitions.

Heyoung Park
Heyoung Park

Heyoung Park was the First Prize winner of the Concours International “Franco Italiano” and “Forum Musical in Normande.” She has appeared as a guest soloist with orchestra in Seoul, Paris, Moscow, Brussels, Salzburg, Budapest, and Athens.

She has served as a judge for International Piano Competitions in Osaka, Japan, Sofia, Bulgaria, and Seoul, Korea.


Ms. Park studied at the Seoul National University where she earned a B.A. degree. She received the Premier Prix De Piano from the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and the Diplome De Concertiste at École Normal de Musicque de Paris/Alfred Cortot.


Ms. Park taught at the Seoul National University and the Mozarteum Summer Adademy of Music in Salzburg and is currently a Professor of Piano at École Normal de Musicque de Paris/Alfred Cortot.

Screening Judges
Joe Chapman
Joe Chapman

Dr. Joe Chapman is an active concert pianist who has performed hundreds of solo recitals for arts associations, colleges, schools, and churches throughout the state of Georgia. In 2015, he presented an eight-concert tour entitled An Evening with Gershwin, performed Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the North Georgia Symphony, and played a solo recital of the music of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. He holds degrees in piano performance from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of South Carolina. 


Dr. Chapman is the senior music faculty member at the University of North Georgia, having joined the faculty in 1983. He is the founder and director of the university’s ever-popular All American Piano Celebration, which is now in its twenty-ninth year. Dr. Chapman serves as director of the Dawson Community Chorale, where he has conducted performances of numerous major works, including Handel’s Messiah, Vivaldi’s Gloria and the Schubert Mass in G Major in collaboration with the University of North Georgia Orchestra. In addition to his responsibilities at UNG, he has served the music profession in a number of capacities, including a term as president of the Georgia Music Teachers Association.

Owen Lovell
Owen Lovell

Pianist Owen Lovell has appeared as a soloist and critically acclaimed chamber musician in seventeen U.S. states, Washington, D.C., Canada, Mexico, and the Netherlands. Commercial releases include tracks with rock musician Kip Winger (2008, Frontiers Records) and ASCAP award–winning composer Randall Bauer (2016, Albany Records). Owen has performed in live broadcasts on Wisconsin Public Radio and Austin, Texas NPR affiliate, KUT–FM. He has worked with many prizewinning composers, most notably Lowell Liebermann, Michael Torke, Samuel Adler, Joan Tower, Dan Welcher, Eric Ewazen, David Maslanka, Denis Smalley, and Roberto Sierra. Owen maintains professional two–piano and violin and piano collaborations, delighting audiences in settings ranging from rural community churches to the Kennedy Center.

Dr. Lovell earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in piano performance from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin. His principal instructors included Boris Slutsky, Dr. Betty Mallard, Gregory Allen, and Julian Martin. Owen is an MTNA Nationally Certified Teacher of Music, having served actively on the executive board of its state and local affiliates, and is frequently in demand as a clinician and adjudicator.

Appointed in the fall of 2016, Dr. Lovell is currently an Assistant Professor of Music and coordinates the keyboard area at Georgia College, the state’s designated public liberal arts university. Additionally, he is the piano review editor and regular contributor to Larry Fine’s Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer (, the standard consumer reference for piano shoppers. He previously served on the keyboard faculties of the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, the University of Texas - San Antonio, and Texas State University.

Utako Tanigawa
Utako Tanigawa

Utako Tanigawa, born in Osaka, Japan, started playing the piano at the age of three, however she gave up playing when she was thirteen years old. She later came to the U.S. and earned multiple degrees in Mathematics, Computer Science, Software Engineering, Management Science and Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science/Information Systems.


Dr. Tanigawa has been engaged in executive positions in global corporations for more than three decades, while simultaneously serving as an academic lecturer and researcher at multiple universities such as Stanford, Boston, Chicago, Colorado and Nova Southeastern University. She is also passionate about leadership development. She has been a mentor and advisor of more than several dozens of talented people, facilitating their advancement into next generation leaders.

Several years ago, her life took a dramatic turn due to a life threatening illness. Although it severely damaged her body, her love of music returned and provided a tangible lifeline.  Today music continues to play a key soothing and healing role as her recovery continues.

She has been a contestant at Van Cliburn Outstanding Amateur, Chicago International Competition, Chopin Competition for Amateur Pianists in Warsaw, Poland, Piano Texas Mozart Concerto with Fort Worth Orchestra, Washington DC International Piano Artist Competition, Dulwich Piano Festival in London, Seattle International Piano Competition, and St. Petersburg in Russia.  She is honored to be selected as a finalist as well as a best performer award in the several competitions.