Final Round: Professional Artists

In the afternoon of October 9, the SIPF presents the last category of participants to compete for the gold in this hybrid online event. This page will be updated with randomly ordered competitors of the Final Round: Professional Artists category at 4 pm, PDT (UTC-7).

Online attendees may cast their vote for Audience Favorite in each of these categories until 11:59 PM PDT (UTC-7) Sunday evening.


Gold Medalist: Pui Yee Angela Lau (Hong Kong)
Silver Medalist: Zehao Bai (China)
Bronze Medalist: Yupeng Mei (China)

Audience Favorite Award: Zehao Bai (China)
President’s Prize for the Best Performance of a Work by Schumann or Brahms: Robert Brooks Carlson (USA)
Best Performance of…

a short character work by either Claude Debussy or Maurice Ravel (under 4 minutes in duration): Pui Yee Angela Lau (Hong Kong)
a Mazurka by Karol Szymanowski: Gabriel Merrill-Steskal (USA)

Instructors of the Finalists (in alphabetical order): Natalya Antonova, Arthur Greene, Soyeon Kate Lee, Marina Lomazov, Julian Martin, Joseph Rackers, Robert Roux, and Logan Skelton.

Unranked Semi-finalists (in alphabetical order): Heejin An (South Korea), Michael Dodds (United States), Yi-Chen Feng (Taiwan), Benjamin Hopkins (United States), Lyndon Ji (United States), Hyeseon Jin (South Korea), Aaron Kurz (United States), Aoshuang Li (China), Ching-Yi Lin (Taiwan), Xianfei Liu (China), Jonathan Mamora (United States), Vikram Rajan (India), Yoon-Wha Roh (South Korea), Keer Wang (China), and John Wilson (United States).

56 Participants from Belarus, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States collectively submitted entries for the Professional Artists category of the 2022 Seattle International Piano Competition.

Gabriel Merrill-Steskal (USA)

Gabriel Merrill-Steskal is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance at the University of Michigan, where he studies with Logan Skelton. An avid performer and collaborator on both modern and period pianos, he recently won second prize at the 1st SFZP International Fortepiano Competition and studies fortepiano with Matthew Bengtson. Before completing two masters degrees at the University of Michigan (in piano performance and fortepiano performance), he graduated summa cum laude from Whitman College, where he studied piano with David Hyun-Su Kim. At Whitman, he completed a double major in music and chemistry, receiving honors in both majors and the Campbell Award for outstanding senior recital.

In addition to performance activities as a soloist and chamber musician, Gabriel is an active teacher and scholar. He is currently a Graduate Student Instructor at the University of Michigan, teaching class piano and private lessons to undergraduate students. His most recent research project involves studying prolongational aspects of folk-based pitch structures in Bartók’s music. Aside from all things piano, he enjoys spending time outside running and rock climbing.

Frédéric Chopin: Etude in C major, Op.10, No.7
Karol Szymanowski: Mazurka in E, Op.50, No.1
Dmitri Shostakovich: Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op.34, No.10
Frédéric Chopin: Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op.28, No.10
Franz Schubert: Sonata in A major, D.664
– iii. Allegro
Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in F-sharp major, K.318
Antonio Soler: Sonata in G minor, R.32
Franz Liszt: Polonaise No.2 in E major, S.223

Robert Brooks Carlson (USA) 

Originally from central Virginia, Robert Brooks Carlson is an emerging artist committed to interpersonal and community engagement through solo and collaborative performance. Currently, Robert studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (CCM) with the internationally acclaimed pianist Soyeon Kate Lee.

Robert has won numerous awards in recent years, including second prize in the National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artists Competition and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music Chamber Music Competition. Previous collaborative and concert engagements have included the James Madison University Wind Symphony and the Rapidan Orchestra as soloist. Furthermore, Robert has performed in Spain, Germany, Netherlands, and throughout the United States. He has participated in the Saarburg and Bowdoin International Chamber Music Festivals, Art of the Piano in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Gijón International Piano Festival, and the International Holland Music Sessions. Robert has appeared in masterclasses with renowned artists such as Emanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, Julian Martin, Robert McDonald, Awadagin Pratt, Boris Slutsky, and Wei Yi Yang. Recently, Robert completed fellowships at the Gilmore Festival and PianoFest in the Hamptons during the summer of 2022.

A devoted chamber musician, Robert proudly served as the collaborative artist for Hear Us Hear Them—a choir based in Cincinnati with the mission to program works by underrepresented and marginalized composers—during its 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons. Additionally, Robert is a member of the Rhine Piano Trio, along with violinist Kristine Clair Uchi Galano and cellist Juneho Josh Kim. While Robert has primarily coached with acclaimed violinist Kristin Lee, previous coaches have included Masumi Per Rostad, Ian Swensen, and Dror Biran.

Prior to his studies with Soyeon Kate Lee, Robert received his Bachelor’s of Music degree from James Madison University magna cum laude with Paulo Steinberg, along with minors in Mathematics and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. Previous teachers include Emily Yap Chua and Nicholas Ross in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Listen and learn more at

Alexander Scriabin: Deux Poèmes, Op.32
– i. Andante cantabile
Antonio Soler: Sonata in G minor, R.32
Béla Bartók: Studies, Op.18
– iii. Rubato – Tempo giusto, capriccioso
Robert Schumann: Symphonic Etudes, Op.13

Yupeng Mei (China)

Born on April 6, 1994, in China, Yupeng Mei began studying piano at the age of six with Min Xu. He held his first piano recital at the age of eleven. In 2009, he began studying with Professor Fang Kuang from the Wuhan Conservatory of Music. From 2012 to 2019, he pursued his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing under the guidance of Taihang Du. He is currently a doctoral student of Natalya Antonova at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

Yupeng Mei has been awarded many international piano competition prizes. In 2022 He won the first prize in NSAL National Awards Piano Competition in the USA. In 2021, he won the first prize awards in the Conero International Piano Competition in the USA and the International Music Moscow Competition in Russia. He was a finalist in both the Washington International Competition for Piano and the Weatherford College International Piano Competition. In 2019, he won the first prize in the Eastman Concerto Competition. In 2016, he was a finalist in the 17th Robert Schumann Music International Competition in Zwickau, Germany. He is a prize winner in the China Boya Award International Piano Festival and Competition (First Prize, 2017), the Best of The Best Outstanding and Innovative Students Award in the Central Conservatory of Music (2014, Winner), the 10th Yamaha Conservatory Cup Piano Competition (2013, First Prize), and the Pearl River National Youth Piano Competition (2012, Third Prize).

He has given numerous performances in China, the United States of America, Germany, and Austria. He has collaborated with the Eastman Philharmonic Orchestra in Rochester, New York, and the Philharmonic Orchestra Plauen-Zwickau in Zwickau, Germany. He has performed in many music festivals, including the Chautauqua Piano Festival (2020, Chautauqua Institution, New York), the Bird-Music Piano Festival (2016, Austria), and the Allegro Vivo International Music Festival (2013, Austria).

Johann Sebastian Bach: Ricercar à 3, from Musical Offering, BWV 1079
Antonio Soler: Sonata in G minor, R.32
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata No.2 in B-flat minor, Op.36
– iii. Allegro molto
Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne in B major Op.62, No.1
Samuel Barber: Piano Sonata in E-flat minor, Op.26
– iv. Fuga: Allegro con spirito

Joseph Vaz (USA) 

Described as “a performer of complex repertoire” (Isle of Wight Arts League Creative Voice), pianist Joseph Vaz has performed internationally as a soloist and chamber musician in the United States, Canada, Austria, and Italy. He has performed in venues from Carnegie Hall to the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna.

Born in Faro, Portugal, Joseph now lives in New York City and studies at the CUNY Graduate Center with the renowned pianist and pedagogue Julian Martin. He is a laureate of several national and international competitions since 2012, including the DePauw University Young Artist Piano Competition, the MTNA National Senior Piano Competition, the Edward Auer Piano Workshop Senior Piano Competition, the Jack and Lucille Wonnell Young Artist Concerto Competition, and the New Horizons Piano Competition.

Joseph frequently performs at international festivals, including recent appearances at the Internationale Sommerakademie in Reichenau, the Orford Music Academy, Bowdoin Music Festival, and the Chautauqua Piano Institute. Joseph has performed in masterclasses with artists including Byron Janis, Jerome Lowenthal, Jon Nakamatsu, John Perry, and Natalya Antonova. His orchestral debut came with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra in 2015, and he has also performed as soloist with the Seven Hills Sinfonietta and other orchestral ensembles. He regularly presents solo and chamber recitals for his communities.

An active collaborative pianist, he has worked with all types of musicians in chamber music and in multiple orchestras for operas and concert programs. Joseph is a proponent of new music, working closely with several composers on pieces for world premieres. Interested in many genres of music-making, Joseph enjoys working in contemporary music ensembles, musical theatre, and popular music. Outside of music, Joseph holds a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in French from Indiana University, and enjoys reading 20th century classics.

Bohuslav Martinů: Etude in D, from Etudes and Polkas, Book 1
Antonio Soler: Sonata in G minor, R.32
Igor Stravinsky: Hymne, from Serenade in A
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sonata in A minor, K.310/300d
– i. Allegro maestoso
Robert Schumann: Fantasiestücke, op.12
– ii. Aufschwung
– iii. Warum?
– v. In der Nacht
– vii. Traumes Wirren

Yi-Hsuan Lee (Taiwan)

Born in Taiwan, Taoyuan, Yi-Hsuan Lee started playing piano at the age of six. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from National Taiwan Normal University, her teachers including Su-Yin Hsaio and Lina Yeh. She has won numerous prizes in North America and Asia, including the second grand prize of the Vancouver International Music Competition, the most exceptional performance prize of the Charleston International Music Competition, the first prize of the “New Art Music Star” competition, fifth prize of the 17th Hong-Kong Asia Piano Open Competition, and first prize of National Taiwan Normal University Piano Concerto Competition.

She has performed concerti with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, the National Taiwan Normal University Orchestra in Taipei, and with the Perugia Piano Festival Orchestra in the Hall of Notaries, Perugia. She was selected to participate in the Vivace International Music Festival in the US, the Gijon International Piano Festival in Spain, and the Perugia Piano Festival in Italy.

She also performed in masterclasses with many world-renowned pianists, including Robert McDonald, Peter Serkin, Boris Giltburg, Boris Slutsky, Jablonski Krzysztof, Marina Lomazov, Sasha Starcevich, Jean Saulnier, José Ramón Méndez, Logan Skelton, Douglas Humpherys, Konstantin Lifschitz, and Nelson Delle-Vigne. She received her Master of Music degree both in Piano Performance and Piano Chamber Music from the University of Michigan in 2019 and received her Doctoral Degree in Piano Performance at the University of Michigan under the tutelage of Dr. Arthur Greene in 2022.

Antonio Soler: Sonata in G minor, R.32
Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne in B major, Op.62, No.1
Alexander Scriabin: Piano Sonata No.5, Op.53

Anna Yukho (Belarus)

Anna Yukho started playing piano at age six under the tutelage of her mother, attending the Republican Music College in her native Minsk, Belarus. In 1999 she made her debut with the Belarusian State Chamber Orchestra performing the fifth J.S. Bach piano Concerto. She is a prizewinner of numerous international piano competitions including the International Piano Competition in memory of Arthur Rubinstein in Bydgoszcz, Poland. In 2020, Anna won First Prize at the Weatherford International Piano Competition, and in 2021, Anna had the honor to compete in the 21st Iturbi International Piano Competition in Valencia, Spain, where she was advanced to the semifinal round. During her career, Anna has appeared at important venues such as Weill Recital Hall – Carnegie Hall and Klavierhaus in New York. She also gave performances in Belgium, Italy, Austria, Holland, Poland, and Russia. As a soloist, Anna has performed with the Belarusian State Chamber and Symphony Orchestra several times. Anna just graduated with an Artist Diploma degree from The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. She also holds a Master of Musical Arts and a Master of Music degree from Yale School of Music and Mannes School of Music, respectively. Her teachers were Boris Berman, Peter Frankl, Vladimir Feltsman, Robert Roux, and Igor Olovnikov.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Prelude and Fugue in B minor, OBWV 869
Antonio Soler: Sonata in G minor, R.32
Frédéric Chopin: Etude in C-sharp minor, Op.10, No.4
Alexander Scriabin: Etude, Op.65, No.3
Karol Szymanowski: Three Masques, Op.34
– iii. The Serenade of Don Juan

Zehao Bai (China) 

Born into a family of musicians, Zehao Bai began his piano study at the age of three and made his debut concert at the age of fourteen. Zehao continued studying piano under the tutelage of Dr. Marina Lomazov and Dr. Joseph Rackers and received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees. He is now pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts at the Eastman School of Music.

Zehao was featured as the rising keyboard artist of the Rising Artist series at Lander University, the Rising Star soloist at Texas State International Piano Festival, and many more. Additionally, Zehao and his chamber music partner, Ke’er Wang performed as part of the Piano Extravaganza of the Southeastern Piano Festival and on the innovative classical music experience, Concert Truck. In 2021, Zehao was invited to be part of the young jury panel for the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition.

Zehao was awarded multiple prizes in competitions such as the National Society of Arts and Letters National Competition of Piano, Thousand Island International Piano Competition; Long Island International Piano Competition; MTNA National Piano Competition. In addition to competition prizes, Zehao was invited to perform with symphony orchestras including the Virtuosi Brunenses Symphony Orchestra, Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra, and Texas State Symphony Orchestra.

On top of performance activities, Zehao enjoys teaching and communicating with other pianists. He now serves as Teaching Assistant for class piano at the Eastman School, and an intern instructor at the Eastman Community Music School.

At the summer of 2016, Zehao and Ke’er Wang together created the Miaomiao Piano Festival in Wuhai, China to be the best piano festival for pre-college young pianists of the Inner Mongolia area.

Antonio Soler: Sonata in G minor, R.32
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata in A major, Opus.101
– iii. Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll. Adagio, ma non troppo, con affetto
– iv. Geschwind, doch nicht zu sehr, und mit Entschlossenheit. Allegro
Dimitri Shostakovich: Prelude and Fugue No.24 in D minor, Op.87
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Etude in D major, Op.39, No.9

Pui Yee Angela Lau (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong born pianist Pui-Yee Angela Lau began her musical journey at an early age. Currently studying at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with Soyeon Kate Lee, she previously attended Royal College of Music, London under the tutelage of Gordon Fergus-Thompson and Ruth Nye.

Lau has performed extensively in the UK including Victoria & Albert Museum, Windsor Parish Church, Pushkin House, Burgh House of Hampstead and Austrian Cultural Forum. She has been selected to work in masterclasses with respected artists such as Boris Berman, Kathryn Stott, Artur Pizarro, Patsy Toh and Lise de la Salle. She is also a recipient of a full tuition scholarship to the Bowdoin International Music Festival in 2021. Recently, she was named a Gilmore Festival Fellow to attend a residency at the 2022 Festival and Art of the Piano Festival. Lau is a laureate of Tuesday Musical Scholarship and Eastbourne Symphony Young Artist Competition. She made her debut with the Woking Symphony Orchestra after winning the Woking Young Musician of the year in 2017.

Aside from performing career, Lau works as a teaching assistant in Piano at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She serves the community as the chair of Ohio MTA Southwest district Buckeye Audition. She develops an interest for folk music from an early age forming folk band playing on mandolin, guitar with her colleagues. On the piano, she engages and promotes folk elements into her program including works by Medtner and Rzewski.

Aspired to pursue music professionally, likewise she is also an avid indoor climber. She believes the process of climbing is comparable to learning repertoire. It involves careful planning of climbing course as of portraying musical intention.

Nikolai Medtner: 6 Fairy Tales Op.51
– iii. Allegretto tranquillo e grazioso
– iv. Allegretto con moto flessibile
– vi. Allegro vivace sempre al rigore di Tempo
Antonio Soler: Sonata in G minor, R.32
Frederic Rzewski: No.3 Down by the Riverside, from North American Ballads
Claude Debussy: Estampes
– iii. Jardin sous la pluie

Audience Favorite Award

Until 11:59 pm PM PDT (UTC-7), Sunday, October 9, cast your vote for the Audience Favorite award. This poll opens at 4 pm.

Results: click here.