Leanne Jin on stage standing before grand piano, with orchestra

'Piano Woman' scoops prize pool

20 September 2019
Sydney Conservatorium of Music student on a winning streak
Pianist Leanne Jin has picked up three prestigious prizes in just two months, including first prize in the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition.

Leanne Jin performs in the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition, July 2019

Leanne Jin, dubbed “the Piano Woman” by Sydney Eisteddfod, has enjoyed a year of outstanding success. In the second year of a Bachelor of Music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Jin has already won three major piano competitions in 2019.

In July, Jin took out first prize in the prestigious Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition, one of the most important in Australasia.

Jin also picked up three other prizes in the same competition: Best Concerto Performance on Finals night, with a scintillating performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra; Best Performance of Third Round; and Best Performance of a Prelude and Fugue for her Shostakovich. She walked away with prize money of $32,000.

"The Lev Vlassenko Competition was the first of three significant Australian competitions I participated in within two months,” Jin says. “It was a long process involving months of planning, hard work and preparation.”

The first step, she says, was choosing her repertoire. “This involved hours of discussion with my teacher, Natalia Ricci, and trial and error, as I wanted to present a program of wide scope that highlighted my different strengths and musical passions.”

Then came her rigorous preparation regime. The competition meant she had to play three solo recitals and one concerto with an orchestra – some 2.5 hours of music in total.

“It was important to organise a clear practice and performance schedule,” Jin says. “All the works needed to be securely learnt and memorised and aired in various performances leading up to the competition.”

Preparing for the competition challenged me to rise to new levels of performance and musicality. Winning it was an incredible bonus and a moment I will forever cherish.
Leanne Jin, Bachelor of Music student

Watch Leanne Jin play Aragonesa and Andaluza from Cuatro Piezas Espagnoles by Manuel de Falla in the first round of the Lev Vlassenko competition.

Jin adopted a philosophical attitude to her peformances and the competition. “My approach was not so much playing with the intention of winning but to go out on stage with my teacher’s philosophy in mind, which was to play as well as I could and leave with the satisfaction of knowing I’d given a good performance even if I didn’t make it to the finals.”

But make it to the finals she did. Not only that, she won the competition. “When they announced the prize-winners, I was utterly overwhelmed,” Jin says. “Preparing for the competition was such a positive experience in itself, in the way it challenged me to rise to new levels of performance and musicality. But winning it was an incredible bonus and a moment I will forever cherish.”

This stunning success was not in fact the beginning of Jin's winning streak, which really began in 2018 when she won the Emerging Artists Series Award as well as the prestigious national Theme and Variations Foundation Award.

In August, shortly after the Vlassenko Competition, Jin took out the biggest piano prize at the Sydney Eisteddfod, the Kawai Piano Scholarship, valued at $12,000. One of the judges, Vivian Choi, praised Jin’s impressive performance as one that “came from the soul”. 

Jin was selected on the Eisteddfod finals night as Young Virtuoso State Finalists, and will compete on Sunday 13 October.

But wait, there’s more. Leanne was awarded first prize in the Sydney Conservatorium Piano Concerto Competition, also held in August. This means she will play a concerto with the Conservatorium Orchestra early next year.

Jin’s teacher, Natalia Ricci, attributes her successes to her exceptional talent, razor-sharp focus and determination, engaging stage presence and wonderful flair as a performer, as well as her tremendous capacity for hard work and effective practice.

Jin says she could not have achieved these successes "without the endless support of my wonderful teacher, Natalia Ricci, the Theme and Variations Foundation and my family and friends".