2024 Gilmore Young Artists Announced: Kasey Shao and Harmony Zhu
July 20, 2023
Kasey Shao and Harmony Zhu each enjoyed a career-changing phone call from Gilmore Artistic and Executive Director Pierre van der Westhuizen earlier this year, learning they had been named our new 2024 Gilmore Young Artists. The award brings with it $15,000 to further their education and careers, and $10,000 to commission a new piano composition. The organization will welcome the two for solo recitals and orchestral performances during the 2024 Gilmore Piano Festival, April 24 through May 11, 2024.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Harmony and Kasey to the family of Gilmore Artists,” said van der Westhuizen in making the announcement, “Each of these young women have devoted themselves successfully to other studies and interests while maintaining a high musical standard. We look forward to supporting their growth as musicians, and being inspired by what they will contribute in the future.”
Born in 2003 in Louisville, KY, Kasey Shao started playing piano at age six, and made her concerto debut at age 12 with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Yannick Nézét Séguin. A Young Steinway Artist and 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholar, Ms. Shao studies with Dr. Ran Dank, and with Magaret Kampmeier at Princeton University (class of 2025) concentrating in music (with a focus on composition) and pre-med courses. She is the founder and president of the Princeton University chapter of Doctors Without Borders, an Academic Learning Consultant, and the Music Director of the Princeton Pianists Ensemble. She hopes to become a hand surgeon, helping other musicians continue to do what they love.
Ms. Shao’s numerous competition accomplishments include the Gold Medal in the Classical Music Division of the 2020 National YoungArts Week, and first place finishes at the 2020 Overture Awards, and 2020 Dubois International Piano Competition. She was a finalist at the 2022 New York International Piano Competition, 2021 Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition, 2020 Hilton Head International Piano Competition, and 2020 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Ms. Shao has performed with the Blue Ash Montgomery Symphony Orchestra and Louisville Orchestra, and has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Cincinnati Business Inquirer, Oberlin Tribune, and Cleveland Classical.
Born in 2005, 2024 Gilmore Young Artist Harmony Zhu began piano study at The Juilliard School at age eight, with teachers including Emanuel Ax and Veda Kaplinsky. She was recognized as a Young Steinway Artist at age 10, and made her debut at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium at age 14. She won the 2021 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, becoming the youngest artist on the YCA roster, and was also the youngest to be named one of the “30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians Under 30” by CBC Music. She is a student at the Brearley School in New York (class of 2024).
Ms. Zhu was invited to open the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 118th season at their Opening Night Gala Concert at the age of 10 playing Beethoven Concerto No. 1 under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. She has appeared as soloist with leading orchestras worldwide, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, Orquesta Filarmónica de Medellín, Albany Symphony, Orlando Philharmonic, Illinois Philharmonic, Aspen Philharmonic, Hawaii Symphony, Peoria Symphony, Amarillo Symphony, among many others, with conductors including Leonard Slatkin, Marin Alsop, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and David Alan Miller.
Frequently invited to perform at music festivals including the Ravinia Festival and Aspen Music Festival, Ms. Zhu has been featured on major U.S. television networks including NBC’s The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Stepping in with less than 24-hours’ notice to perform Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3 with the Illinois Philharmonic in 2022, substituting for the late maestro Alexander Toradze, she was noted by the Chicago Classical Review as having “both the stellar technique and musical insight to have a major professional career.” Other plaudits include “a deeply musical soul and nimble technician [with] probing sensitivity” (Chicago Tribune), and “an impressive soloist, a sparkling and happy presence… unflappable” (Times Union). She is a world-champion chess player, and in her spare time enjoys visiting art museums, photography, reading, birdwatching, doodling, dancing, ping pong, badminton, and swimming.
Founded along with the Gilmore Artist Award in 1989, the Gilmore Young Artist Awards spotlight superior pianists living in the U.S. age 22 and younger. The process is modeled on the career-making Gilmore Artist Award, last given in 2018 to Igor Levit. Shao and Zhu are among 40 pianists who have been named Gilmore Young Artists, including 2022 award winners Janice Carissa and Clayton Stephenson. Misha Galant, Kirill Gerstein, Daniel Hsu, Maxim Lando, George Li, Wei Luo, Micah McLaurin, Yuja Wang, Orion Weiss, and Elliot Wuu.
“These two young pianists represent the ideal of what it means to seriously pursue a life in music, which looks different for every artist,” said van der Westhuizen, who announced the winners on July 20.