Will Ge ’25 Wins Second Place and Chopin Award at MTNA National Piano Competition

Ge poses alongside two other contestants who also received high marks at the competition.

Chords and rapid arpeggios echoed in the auditorium as William Ge ’25 opened his performance at the Music Teacher National Association (MTNA) Piano Competition with Chopin’s Etude in C Major, op. 10 no. 1. Afterwards, Ge’s rendition of the piece — alongside works by Beethoven and Debussy — landed him second place in the Senior Division of the competition, alongside the Chopin Award for “the best performance of a Chopin work.”

“Competition judges listen to so much high-leveled playing that everything becomes almost jaded. The music isn’t music anymore and [they] can’t stop criticizing or finding issues in it. Therefore, if I start with something really ‘wowing,’ [I] can break their mentality and get them to enjoy the music… The Chopin Etude is a very ear-catching piece. It starts with strong, flashy chords and arpeggios that help hook the audience if it’s played well,” said Ge.

Welcoming almost 1000 young pianists across the nation every year, MTNA requires participants to undergo a year-long process and several rounds of eliminations. Hundreds of music teachers across the country also comprise MTNA.

“I would say this is one of the first big types of competitions that I’ve done. Previous competitions would have been localized by the school, [for example] those hosted by the New England Conservatory…I think this competition [brought] in people from all over the United States [and] was a very valuable experience for me…this competition has occupied five of the eleven years [that I’ve played],” said Ge.

In addition to his opening piece, Chopin’s Etude in C Major, Ge’s program included the Bach Prelude and Fugue in D-Minor, the first movement of the Beethoven Sonata No. 26 “Les Adieux,” the Chopin Scherzo in E-Major, and Debussy’s “L’isle Joyeuse.” He crafted this diverse repertoire to best showcase the extent of his abilities.

“My favorite piece in the competition was probably Debussy’s “L’isle Joyeuse.” It’s definitely not the best piece I played, I actually missed the last note, [which] you have to go all the way down to the bottom of the piano [to] hit the low A…but, I love that piece, it’s so fun to play, it’s very charming… It’s a piece that I feel can be adjusted to suit many, many means… Debussy offers a lot of creative freedom in that regard,” said Ge.

For preliminary rounds of the MTNA competition, students submitted video recordings of their pieces. Ge compared these virtual performances with the in-person concert of the final round, touching on how musical nuances can be better conveyed in a physical setting.

“Sound works depending on the acoustics of the room. [The way] different voices…and melody lines come out can be really hard to capture in recordings… It’s also just more enjoyable to watch a live performance, because [the audience] gets to see and clap for [soloists] as they walk on stage and bow,” said Ge.

In addition, Ge has made many friends during the several years he’s participated in MTNA and similar piano competitions. He highlighted the community aspect of such events.

“Going into the competition, I had a lot of friends I looked forward to meeting again. I think something that pops up a lot in the pianist community is that you go to competitions with the same people, so it’s really fun to see them again after a really long time. It’s always really fun to get to meet all the students, as well as the teachers, and to read the judges’ comments,” said Ge.

Although the competition season for pianists is over for this year, Ge is now looking into summer festivals and other programs. Ge will soon be going to the Cliburn International Junior Piano Festival as a guest artist.

“It’s the type of milestone where I’ve reached the level that I used to look up to, and that excites me because the level that I now look up to, if I could one day reach that, would be incredible because then I could actually become a concert pianist,” said Ge.