CSU Student Composer Earns Top National Award

COLUMBUS, Ga. - A Columbus State University freshman has captured a national title in the field of music composition.

Pianist Liliya Ugay has been awarded first place in the Young Artist category of the 2010-2011 Music Teachers National Association Composition Competition.

She's the Schwob School of Music’s second student ever to win an MTNA title in the 19-26-age division. Michael Sumuel, now singing with the Houston Grand Opera, won the vocal competition four years earlier. In 2007-2008, violinist Boris Abramov and clarinetist Andy Hudson captured their respective MTNA national competitions as they represented CSU in the division for ages 15-18.Liliya Ugay, prof Fred Cohen

Ugay’s award-winning piece, Slipping Dreams, is a contemporary composition for nine instruments: flute, clarinet, bassoon, percussion, piano, two violins, cello and double bass. She composed the piece in memory of award-winning Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu.

As first-place winner, Ugay receives a $3,000 prize and the opportunity to perform the composition on March 29 at the MTNA national conference in Milwaukee. 

Growing up in Uzbekistan, formerly part of the Soviet Union, Ugay began taking piano as a child, later adding composition lessons. She won her first composition competition at age 14 in her hometown of Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. Her talent and ambition have led her far from home.

“In my country, the music school where I studied was extremely strong, but the college-level education there limits, rather than develops, your professional skills,” Ugay said. “I was interested in continuing my studies in America and needed a full scholarship to attend.”

She found her way to Columbus State after a suggestion from a friend who attended CSU prompted Ugay to successfully apply for a Woodruff Scholarship.

Established by the Woodruff Family Foundation in 1999, the scholarship includes a generous stipend, plus tuition and related expenses for Schwob school undergraduates.

Ugay said she loves studying and living in Columbus and feels lucky to have the opportunity to study with Schwob professors Fred Cohen and Alex Kobrin. “It is hard to imagine a better and more intelligent composition teacher than professor Cohen, and I cannot believe that the famous world-renowned pianist Alexander Kobrin is my piano coach,” she said.

Kobrin, CSU’s L. Rexford Whiddon Distinguished Chair in Piano, has high regard, likewise, for his student. “It has been a great pleasure working with Liliya Ugay since the very beginning,” he said. “Her dedication to music and a hunger to learn would make any teacher proud. She never stops searching for a deeper understanding of music and has the soul of a composer.”

The performance at the MTNA national conference will give Ugay the opportunity to showcase her unique compositional style. The mission of the Music Teachers National Association is to “advance the value of music study and music making to society.” The annual competition is sponsored by the MTNA to encourage creativity and self-expression in student musicians through the art of composing.

"We are very proud of Liliya Ugay as well as Jack Meisburg  and Sara Renner, who also participated in the competition,” said Gary Wortley, interim dean of the College of the Arts. “Liliya, only a freshman, is indicative of CSU's ability to attract world-class faculty and student musicians and provide world-class educational opportunities for these students to successfully pursue their goals.”

Meisburg, a bassist, and Renner, an oboist, advanced to the regional finals after winning state competitions in their categories.

The Schwob School of Music is part of Columbus State’s College of the Arts on the university’s RiverPark campus in downtown Columbus. A recent recipient of the University System of Georgia Regents Teaching Excellence Award for Departments and Programs, the school utilizes state-of-the-art concert facilities and practice rooms equipped with 70-plus Steinway pianos at its home, the Saunders Center for Music Studies in the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.

For more information, go to http://music.colstate.edu/ or call 706-649-7225.