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jurors, guest artists and UCO School of Music faculty on stage

Jurors and Guest Artists

Valery Kuleshov

photo of pianist Valery KuleshovDr. Valery Kuleshov and his wife Kate came to the University of Central Oklahoma in 1998. He serves as an Artist in Residence for the College of Fine Arts and Design in the School of Music. Kuleshov, a pianist, is an Honored Artist of the Russian Federation whose awards include a Gold Medal at the Busoni International Piano Competition (1987), a Silver Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (1993) and the first prize at the Pro Piano Competition (1998).

Kuleshov has toured the world, performing in some of the world's best concert halls including New York's Carnegie Hall, the Milan Conservatory in Italy and the Great Halls of the Moscow Conservatory and St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

Kuleshov was born in Chelyabinsk, Russia, near what is now Kazakhstan. He began playing by ear at age five. Teachers soon noticed his talent, and by age seven he had left home to enter the prestigious Central Music School at the Moscow Conservatory. At age nine, he made his concert debut in the Conservatory's Great Hall.

Kuleshov briefly studied with piano legend Vladimir Horowitz. In 2001, he released "Homage to Vladimir Horowitz," a CD of Kuleshov's transcriptions of his mentor's works. He also has released several other CDs.

Kuleshov performs concerts each year at the University of Central Oklahoma. Students in the UCO Symphony Orchestra often get the opportunity to accompany him during his performances, and at times Kuleshov gives a solo performance.

Alexander Tutunov

man playing pianoAlexander Tutunov is widely recognized as one of the most outstanding virtuosos of the former Soviet Union. First Prize winner of the Belarusian National Piano Competition and winner of the Russian National Piano Competition, Tutunov's playing was described by Soviet Culture, Moscow, as "exhilarating and inspired, and which demonstrated a unique talent". 

Dr. Tutunov maintains a busy performing schedule in Europe, China, Mexico, and the United States as a recitalist, soloist with orchestra, and on radio and television. Dr. Tutunov is also in demand as an adjudicator for piano competitions.

Tutunov's recording of the Abeliovich Piano Concerto was featured as part of the Emmy award winning soundtrack for the History Channel documentary, Russia: Land of Tsars, and his CD of the Tchaikovsky Concert Fantasy with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra was produced in January 2008. Other recordings include: Concerto for Piano & Orchestra by Peter Sacco with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra (Albany Records) and the solo piano works of Lev Abeliovich Sonatas & Frescoes, Trio, Songs (Altarus Records). 

Tutunov graduated magna cum laude from the Central Music School of the Moscow Conservatory (studies with Anna Artobolevskaya and Lev Naumov) and University of North Texas (piano studies with Joseph Banowetz). Awarded his doctoral diploma with honors in concert performance from the Belarusian State Conservatory, Dr. Tutunov has taught at the Minsk College of Music, the University of North Texas, and Illinois Wesleyan University.

Alexander Tutunov now lives in Ashland, where he is Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence at Southern Oregon University. A successful piano pedagogue, he continues to prepare award-winning students. Dr. Tutunov is Artist in Residence at the University of Alaska Southeast, Artistic director of the SOU International Piano Institute, and was recently named the Director of the Chinese-American International Piano Institute in Chengdu, China. 

Ralph Votapek

man standing in front of open pianoRalph Votapek is professor emeritus of piano at the Michigan State University College of Music.

He is the gold medalist of the first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and winner of the prestigious Naumburg Award. Votapek has been featured 16 times as the Chicago Symphony’s guest soloist, has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Boston Pops, the Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, St. Louis, National Symphonies, and other top ensembles.

With eastern hemisphere concerto engagements stretching from London to Taiwan, he has also toured in Russia, Japan, and Korea. He has made a special commitment to Latin America, where he has toured for nearly 50 years, performing repeatedly in Buenos Aires, Rio, Santiago, and other cities. He recently received the Foreign Artist in Recital Award from the Argentine Association of Music Critics. He is equally celebrated as a solo recitalist throughout the United States and has performed repeatedly in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, and the National Gallery in Washington. Guest appearances with the Juilliard, Fine Arts, New World, and Chester String quartets highlight his extensive chamber music experience.

Votapek was the soloist on Arthur Fiedler’s last Boston Pops recording, a Gershwin program released on CD by London Records and most recently available as a part of the Deutsche Grammophone CD titled “The Arthur Fiedler Legacy.” In recent years he has recorded prolifically for the Ivory Classics and Blue Griffin labels. On the former he recorded the complete Debussy Preludes, the complete Goyescas of Granados, and a collection of important 20th century works. On the latter there are “Votapek Plays Gershwin,” “The Votapeks from Mozart to Piazzolla,” and the complete works for piano and cello of Beethoven with cellist Suren Bagratuni. They have been critically acclaimed by Grammophone, American Record Guide, International Piano, and Fanfare magazines.

His wife, Albertine, frequently joins him in two-piano and four-hand recitals. They have appeared in Buenos Aires under the auspices of the Mozarteum Argentino, on the Van Cliburn Series in Fort Worth, the Pabst Theatre Series in Milwaukee, and on many college campuses.

Votapek is now retired from Michigan State University, where he served as artist-in-residence for 36 years.

Lia Jensen-Abbot

Lia Jensen-AbbotDr. Lia Jensen-Abbott is an Associate Professor of Music at Albion College where she teaches music theory, aural skills, keyboard skills, piano, piano pedagogy, and piano literature.  She is well known for her interdisciplinary lecture recitals based on semiotic analysis. 

Her solo and collaborative performances (most recently with Dr. Karen Kness, Soprano, Western Michigan University) have taken her around the United States including Hawaii, Montana, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and New York among others. 

In 2012 she performed at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in New York City.  She has also traveled extensively abroad including Serbia, France, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Nottingham, UK, and Costa Rica.  As a clinician and adjudicator, Lia has been invited to judge the MTNA National Finals in San Antonio and Chicago, and she has presented at the MTNA National Conference two times (Orlando and Baltimore) in addition to a CMS International Conference, and two World Piano Teachers Association Conferences. 

An active member of the Music Teachers National Association, Lia recently became a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music, and is now the President of the Michigan Music Teachers Association.  Lia is also a member of the European Piano Teachers Association and the World Piano Teachers Association, and is repeatedly asked to give pre-concert lecture recitals at the International Gilmore Keyboard Festival.

She is a co-founder of the Albion College International Piano Festival and Competition and lives in Albion, Michigan with her husband, pianist Dr. David Abbott, her son Charlie, and two dogs, Dickens and Griswold.  In her spare time, Lia competes in triathlons, plays golf, and reads.