McDuffie Center cellist wins international competition

Staff reportNovember 30, 2013 

Sihao He, a Mercer University sophomore who is a cellist in the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings, was awarded the grand prize during the Third Gaspar Cassado International Violoncello Competition in Hachioji, Japan.

ROGER IDENDEN — Special to The Telegraph

A Mercer University sophomore has won an international cello competition in Japan.

Sihao He played Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129 in the final round. As the grand prize winner, He received almost $15,000 and a gold medal. He will also be commissioned to perform in Japan in the coming year.

He, a cellist in the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings, was awarded the grand prize during the Third Gaspar Cassado International Violoncello Competition, which ended Saturday. The contest, held in Hachioji, Japan, drew more than 300 applicants.

He successfully navigated the first two competition stages during the past week, as well as the final round of the competition over the weekend.

He performed a concerto with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Yamashita Kazufumi.

“Sihao continues to demonstrate greatness wherever he performs,” Amy Schwartz Moretti, director of the McDuffie Center, said in a statement from the university. “We are extremely proud of him.”

“I’m thrilled for Sihao,” said McDuffie, the center’s founder. “He’s extraordinarily gifted. I’m also grateful for his primary teachers, Julie Albers and Hans Jensen. All of us at the center are happy that he is receiving the international recognition his talent so richly deserves.”

McDuffie said by phone Saturday that he was able to stream and watch He’s performance on his laptop computer, even though it was 1:30 a.m. in New York City at the time. Even on his computer, McDuffie said, the “poetry” of He’s performance was striking.

Earlier this year, He was awarded the grand prize at the American String Teachers Association solo competition in New York City. Three students from the McDuffie Center were selected as finalists in that competition. (To watch and hear He playing Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009, go to: www.tinyurl.com/nefcpj8)

The Gaspar Cassado International Competition is named after one the greatest cellists of the 20th century, Gaspar Cassado, who died in 1966. The first competition was held in 1969 in Florence, Italy. The competition has produced several internationally renowned cellists, including Mischa Maisky, Noboru Kamimura and Kaeko Mukoyama.

Enrollment in the McDuffie Center, a special institute within Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music, is limited to 26 students: 12 violinists, six violists, six cellists and two double bassists.

The center will soon move from the Mercer campus to the Bell House on College Street once extensive remodeling is finished. The site is perhaps best known as the former home of the Beall’s 1860 restaurant.

The renovation work will develop a salon on the first floor suitable for student concerts and student chamber music, capable of holding 60 to 70 people in the audience.

Most of the renovation work has focused on the second floor, where student practice spaces are being created.

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