Emerging piano superstar headlines at Summitt Pianos this Sunday
At the age of 20, Man-Ling Bai is an emerging superstar in a highly competitive field—virtuoso piano solo performance. Your chance to hear her in an intimate setting, the showroom of Summitt Pianos on Lee Highway, comes this Sunday, Oct. 4, in a free concert that is part of the “Sunday with Steinway” promotion.
“I’m going to perform baroque music as the opening piece,” Bai says. “After that comes the Beethoven piano concerto, and then one of my favorite composers, Rachmaninoff.”
She certainly has the “chops” for the Russian composer, as she played Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2” with her school’s symphony orchestra in a special performance in the National Concert Hall of her native Taipei, Taiwan. Finishing up Sunday’s concert, she says, will be “jazzy music composed by the Russian composer, Nikolai Kapustin.”
From baroque to classical, from the “last romantic” (Rachmaninoff) to 21st century music, Bai brings a virtuosity to her repertoire that was fostered at an early age.
She began playing at age 6, and within a few years was flourishing in competitions. In 2003, she finished second in a national piano contest sponsored by a major piano manufacturer, and the same year, she gained first prize in the renowned Kevin Kern Piano Contest. (Kern is an internationally recognized Steinway Artist pianist and composer—and another prodigy at an early age—who uses assistive technology to compensate for being legally blind since birth.)
“This performance marks Ms. Bai’s return due to popular demand,” says Buddy Shirk, store manager of Summitt Pianos. “She wowed us all in April 2014, and everyone asked to bring her back. She is sure to thrill the audience with her technically difficult but masterfully played pieces.”
Bai’s been a busy little virtuoso in the past few years. In 2011, she took first place in the piano solo division of the Taipei Music Contest, and recently won both the Southern Adventist Concerto Competition and the Lee University Concerto Competition.
Currently a piano student at Lee University, she expresses her gratitude to family, schools, and teachers for the opportunities that she has made so much of. “First of all, I’m so thankful for my family,” Bai says. “They are always there to support me, even thought they’re in Taiwan, which is 12,000 miles away from America.
“Secondly, I give thanks for my school for giving me so many opportunities to perform and letting me learn many things. And lastly, I greatly appreciate my piano professor, Ning An. He seems like a father to me, always taking care of me, giving me so much to learn and encouraging me.”
As she shares her artistic gift, one that transcends cultural and language differences, Bai tries to “convey the thoughts of composers and my own feelings to the audience. I let my music speak for me, to let my friends understand what I am thinking.”
While the performance on Oct. 4 is free and open to the public, Shirk asks that everyone reserve a spot by calling him at (423) 499-0600. “We break down one side of the store and put the pianos into circles—we jokingly call them ‘florettes’—in order to accommodate about 110 people,” Shirk says. “She’ll be performing on a nine-foot Steinway concert grand, which takes a year to build. Out of 24 manufacturers of nine-foot concert grands in the world, Steinway is the choice of 98 percent of the world’s concert pianists and orchestras.
“We have a reception with coffee and cookies, and sometimes people sit on benches, so people should absolutely RSVP for our head count. You get to meet the artist who’s performing and interact one-on-one with her, and that’s always fun.”
“Sunday with Steinway,” 3 p.m. Oct. 4. Summitt Pianos, 6209 Lee Hwy. (423) 0600, summittpianos.com. Free, but reservations required.