The University of South Africa hosted the 15th Unisa International Piano Competition, with the finals taking place on the 2nd and 3rd of February 2024. Unisa proudly welcomed 40 participants (10 Jury and 30 contestants) from 30 countries.

Dr. Thabo Mbeki, Unisa Chancellor, Principal, and Former President of South Africa, along with Vice-Chancellor Professor Puleng LenkaBula, graced the stage on the last evening of the event.

The Unisa International Music Competition has been held every four years since 1982 in Pretoria, South Africa, and is open to all pianists up to 30 years of age. It is one of the most prestigious music competitions and is a member of the World Federation of International Music.

The first winner of this event in 1982 was Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin, who has since established himself as a sought-after international pianist. Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Puleng, stated that the world of international piano competitions serves as a microcosm of this journey. Pianists, aspiring to be the best, devote countless hours to perfecting their craft.

In his address, His Excellency Dr. Thabo Mbeki greeted esteemed guests and fellow enthusiasts of the arts. He then went on to say that piano competitions have the potential to act as catalysts among the artistic community to strive for excellence, transcending whatever barriers may exist.

Reflecting on the challenges faced by nations across the globe, marred by conflicts and wars, the need for respect for human life and dignity becomes increasingly paramount. It is in these moments of adversity that the arts, and particularly music, have the unique ability to serve as a bridge among belligerent communities.

Great pianists, through their virtuosity and artistry, have the power to touch the hearts of people worldwide, fostering a sense of shared humanity that transcends geopolitical boundaries.

Congratulating the winners, Dr. Thabo Mbeki said:

“Your journey does not end here, it extends to other international stages.”

The winners of the 15th Unisa International Piano Competition in 2024 were Leo De Maria (from Spain), the 1st Prize Classical Winner, and Dabin Ryu (from South Korea), who was crowned the 1st Prize Jazz Winner. The 2nd Prize Jazz Winner was Tomas Jonsson (USA), and the 2nd Prize Classical Winner was Elizaveta Ukrainskaia (Russia).

The evening ended in much jubilation as the winners graced the stage once more to accept their prizes.

by Marion Kate