The Cliburn




Candace Bawcombe, pianist
Pianist Candace Bawcombe has performed as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber-orchestral musician in the DFW area since her return to Texas in 1991. The New York Times has hailed her as “…deeply talented; a beautiful pianist.” She has enjoyed collaborations with many artists including violinists Pinchas Zukerman, Erick Friedman, Peter Winograd, Eugene Drucker, and concertmasters of many orchestras. Metropolitan Opera star Renée Fleming and Ms. Bawcombe performed the world premiere of Three Persian Songs by Bezhad Ranjbaran in Alice Tully Hall. She has performed and taught in festivals in the United States, Southeast Asia, and the United Kingdom. Ms. Bawcombe was an integral part of Dallas Chamber Music Society for 10 years beginning as the first executive director and later as artistic director. She hosted “Spotlight on Chamber Music” on WRR Classical 101.1FM for several years.

Ms. Bawcombe holds a master’s degree in music from The Juilliard School, where she studied with Abbey Simon and Herbert Stessin. She was 11 years old when she was accepted into the piano studio of concert pianist Lili Kraus. Ms. Kraus, who studied with Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, and Artur Schnabel, mentored Ms. Bawcombe for 14 years. Ms. Bawcombe is currently a featured artist for the Cliburn in the Classroom education program for elementary school students in North Texas. She is founder and managing director of the Children’s Community Chorus of Johnson County and teaches piano in Colleyville and North Arlington. Ms. Bawcombe is married to Dallas Symphony Orchestra violinist Andrew Schast.


Shields-Collins (Buddy) Bray, program host
Shields-Collins Bray has been visiting schools with the Cliburn in the Classroom series for over 10 years, and he says it is the most enjoyable work he does.

When he is not in the schools talking about music, Mr. Bray serves as artistic director of the Cliburn at the Modern series and is the principal keyboardist for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Bray also hosts the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s pre-concert discussion series, where he does much the same thing as in the schools—he tries to make his audience comfortable with the music they will hear, and he does it with a spirit of discovery and fun.

Mr. Bray comes from a family of teachers, and he is glad to be carrying on the family tradition.


Sara Doan, program host
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Sara Doan began studying piano at the age of 3 with Donna Edwards. Under her tutelage, Ms. Doan won top prizes in several state and regional competitions. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in piano performance at the University of North Texas, and is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts at TCU.

Ms. Doan has performed with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra (Dallas) and the North Texas Symphony Orchestra (Denton). She has presented recitals across Texas, and in Oklahoma, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.  In December 2010, Ms. Doan served as guest artist in the First International Piano Festival of Bogota, Colombia where she performed, taught master classes, led discussions, and served on the competition jury.

Ms. Doan has served as collaborative pianist-in-residence at Southeastern Oklahoma State and adjunct professor of piano at the University of North Texas. She maintains a private studio in the DFW area and is an adjunct professor at Tarrant County College -Northwest Campus, while performing regularly with her chamber groups, Trio 8831 and Apana Trio. She also presents lectures and educational programs through the Fort Worth Music Fund and Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth.


Corrie Donovan, program host
Corrie Donovan is a Fort Worth native who loves connecting with audiences in a range of capacities. A trained soprano, Ms. Donovan has been praised for her “soul stripping, lyrical” interpretations (TheaterJones) and her “polished and distinctively powerful” performances (Fort Worth Weekly). From new works with Fort Worth Opera’s Frontiers Showcases, to participating in Cirque Du Soleil’s vocal workshops in Mexico, Ms. Donovan is committed to engaging others into the world of music.

With the Fort Worth Opera Ms. Donovan has sung in a number of capacities: as principal artist, soprano apprentice in its studio program, and as a guest performer. She has also appeared as a soloist with both Corpus Christi and Las Colinas orchestras, and as a guest performer with the Fort Worth Symphony. For Cliburn Concerts, she performed alongside award-winning American composer John Bucchino. In Mexico, Ms. Donovan performed concerts with the Centro Fox Youth Orchestra at the invitation of the country’s former president, Vicente Fox. Other credits include the New York Baroque Festival Il Cuore Canta, and singing in Brazil on the Holland America Maasdam.

Now in her fourth year as an artist and facilitator for the Cliburn in the Classroom educational program, Ms. Donovan also served in 2015 as the official MC for the Cliburn’s First International Junior Piano Competition. Prior to this, Ms. Donovan performed in over 400 children’s operas across the state of Texas with the Fort Worth Opera. Her own childhood included plenty of music, and she’s happy to help make that possible for others.


Natsuko Ejiri, pianist
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Natsuko Ejiri moved to Japan when she was two-and-a-half and started playing the piano when she was 4 at Yamaha Music School. She later studied privately with Naoko Sugai and Miyuki Kurosawa, before taking a hiatus from music to earn a degree in nursing. Ms. Ejiri then moved to the United States, where she has performed extensively while maintaining an active private teaching studio.

Ms. Ejiri has played under conductors including Michael Tilson Thomas and Esa Pekka Salonen, performed on many occasions with the New World Symphony in Miami, and appeared at the Aspen Music Festival in 2010 and 2012 as an orchestral fellow. As a concerto soloist, Ms. Ejiri has performed with orchestras including the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic and Moor Park Symphony, and she has served as a staff pianist for several universities and eminent artist teachers, including the studio of the late János Starker. Recent and upcoming performance highlights include orchestral keyboard work with the Abilene Philharmonic (where she is principal keyboardist) and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, chamber and solo appearances on the Mount Vernon Music series, and outreach work with Texas Winds.

Ms. Ejiri is a graduate of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and California State University Northridge, where her teachers have included Shigeo Neriki, Edward Francis, and Francois Regnat.


Karen Hall, program host
Karen Hall has been a member of the cello section of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra since 1979. She has also held positions with the Dallas Opera Orchestra, the Memphis Symphony, and most recently, the Hawaii Symphony in a one-year appointment.

Ms. Hall is the artistic director of Hall Ensemble, a chamber music group specializing in intimate, small-venue, chamber-music concerts. Two of the group’s 2015 concerts were named on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s top 10 classical performances of the year. An ardent proponent of historic performance practice, she also plays the baroque cello and viola da gamba, and is a founding member of Texas Camerata.

In addition to her performing career, Ms. Hall is a popular speaker and narrator. She makes silver and beaded jewelry and enjoys traveling–with and without her cello.


Gloria Lin, pianist
Gloria Lin has performed at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, Kosciuszko Foundation, the United Nations, the Ford Center in Toronto, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, and in China, France, Mexico, Peru, Japan, Spain, and Venezuela. She is a guest at international festivals in Cartagena, Colombia and in Morelia, Mexico; Cliburn at the Modern; and at the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth. She has been featured on prominent national and international media, including APM’s Performance Today, WNYC’s Soundcheck, national television and radio broadcasts in Colombia, and Japan’s public television NHK.

Dr. Lin was educated at The Juilliard School, Interlochen Arts Academy, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Manhattan School of Music, and earned her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Indiana University-Bloomington. She has led master classes at Beijing’s Central Conservatory, as well as at the National Conservatory in Lima and the Conservatorio de las Rosas in Morelia, Mexico, among other institutions. She currently serves on the piano and musicology faculty at the TCU School of Music in Fort Worth, Texas.


Alex McDonald, pianist
Since his orchestral debut at age 11, pianist Alex McDonald has performed across the United States as well as in Israel, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. Additionally, he has been a featured performer on PBS, WRR (Dallas/Fort Worth), KUHA and KUHF (Houston), NPR, and WQXR (New York City). Awards include second prize at the 2007 New Orleans International Piano Competition and second prize at the 2001 Gina Bachauer International Young Artist Piano Competition. In 2008, he was named a Harvey Fellow by the Mustard Seed Foundation. In 2013, he was a competitor in the Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Dr. McDonald is currently on faculty at Texas Woman’s University, having previously taught at Richland College as well as The Juilliard School. Additionally, his private piano students have been admitted to Juilliard, Eastman, and New England Conservatory, and have performed at Carnegie’s Weill Hall and on WRR. Deeply concerned about a healthy integration of life with music, he has actively pursued community formation both as an R.A. in the Juilliard residence hall and as president of Juilliard Christian Fellowship.

Dr. McDonald received his bachelor’s degree from New England Conservatory with Academic Honors and Distinction in Performance, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Juilliard. His doctoral document, a source study on manuscripts and editions for Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor, has been cited in the most recent edition of the sonata by Alfred Publishers, edited by Nancy Bricard.


Evan Mitchell, pianist
Evan Mitchell’s recent highlights include debuts on the prestigious Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts series (Chicago), at Merkin Concert Hall (NYC), and at several major venues in Shanghai. He has played concerti with the orchestras of Dallas, Fort Worth, and Victoria, among others, and collaborated in recital with such major figures as double bassist Gary Karr and clarinetist Corrado Giuffredi. The 2016–17 season finds Mr. Mitchell opening the Sherman Symphony Orchestra season in October (Brahms, Concerto No. 2), returning for 11 concerts on the Mount Vernon Music chamber series, and much more.

Mr. Mitchell’s new recording of world premieres with bassist Szymon Marciniak is earning rave reviews; most recently, Bass World called their performances “intoxicating,” deeming this “a seminal recording.” He is also featured on the 2012 release Piano de Pampa y Jungla: A Collection of Latin American Piano Music.

Since June 2014, Evan has been featured on Texas Commission of the Arts’ Texas Touring Roster, and over the past four years he has given more than 150 performances for Cliburn in the Classroom. Evan is currently completing his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at TCU, where he studies with John Owings.

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Brian Perry, bassist
Brian Perry is the newest member of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra double bass section. Prior to his appointment in 2013, he was a member of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra for nine seasons. He has appeared with the Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra, and often performs with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. An active collaborator, Mr. Perry is a frequent guest artist with pianist Buddy Bray for the Cliburn in the Classroom educational series and has appeared locally on the Spectrum Chamber Music, Fine Arts Chamber Players, and Cliburn at the Modern series. In recent seasons, he has served as the bassist in conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s Caminos del Inka ensemble and as a member of the Funkytown All-Stars, an all double-bass quartet based in Fort Worth.

Mr. Perry earned his music degrees from Boston University and the University of North Texas. He serves as a board member for the International Society of Bassists (I.S.B.) and the Bradetich Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting the double bass as a solo instrument. Committed to educating and mentoring young bassists, he is currently adjunct lecturer of double bass at the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU in Dallas, and since 2010 has been the double bass instructor at the highly acclaimed Boston University Tanglewood Institute in Lenox, Mass., one of the nation’s premier summer orchestral training programs for high-school students.

Mr. Perry and his wife, Kathryn, a Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra violinist, have two lovely daughters, Madeleine and Margaret.


Matt Ransdell, Jr., program host
Matt Ransdell, Jr. is a professional actor, touring motivational speaker, and theater educator. While attending the University of North Texas, Mr. Ransdell began a professional career as a performer with frequent audition opportunities in New York City, and was signed as a talent represented by the Mary Collins Agency. He continues growing his career as an actor on stage as well as in television and film, and is also a resident artist and teacher with Kids Who Care Musical Theatre in Fort Worth.


Nathan Ryland, pianist
Nathan Ryland, a native of Richardson, Texas, is a student of Dr. Pamela Mia Paul, and currently pursuing his senior year at the University of North Texas. Mr. Ryland has won awards in numerous local, state, and international competitions. Some of his most recent accomplishments include being selected as the first-place winner of the Mid-Texas Symphony Young Artist Competition, and participating as a finalist in the first Texas State International Piano Competition.

During his time at the University of North Texas, he was selected as the piano winner of the 2014–2015 UNT Concerto Competition, performing with the UNT Symphony Orchestra. He was also chosen as the Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Piano Performance, and named to the President’s List numerous times. Mr. Ryland has competed in the Budapest Concert Division of the LA International Liszt Competition, receiving third prize. As a winner of the Jan and Beattie Wood Concerto Competition, he made his debut with the Brevard Music Center Orchestra in summer 2014. Mr. Ryland has participated in the Texas State International Piano Festival, Bowdoin International Music Festival, and Brevard Music Center.


Jonathan Tsay, pianist and program host
Jonathan Tsay earned a bachelor’s degree in music with honors from the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU and his doctorate at l’Université de Montréal in Canada. In addition to a full performing and teaching schedule, Dr. Tsay serves as artistic director of Ensemble75, a chamber-music series based out of Dallas.

Dr. Tsay’s musical studies include violin, percussion, composition, and conducting. He served as pianist, violinist, violist, and percussionist for the Fort Worth Youth Orchestra, where he also won the Young Artists’ Award. Dr. Tsay has also been a featured soloist with the Fort Worth Youth Orchestra, Houston School for the Performing and Visual Arts Orchestra, and Meadows Symphony Orchestra at SMU. Recent performances include collaborations with members of Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Plano Symphony Orchestra, and Avant Chamber Ballet.

Dr. Tsay has been a top prize winner in several piano competitions and presents concerts throughout the United States and Canada. He performs regularly as guest artist for the Cliburn in the Classroom program.

Our Mission

It is the mission of the Cliburn to advance classical piano music throughout the world. Its international competitions, education programs, and concert series embody an enduring commitment to artistic excellence and the discovery of young artists.



The Cliburn is a not-for-profit organization governed by a board of directors, elected for a four year term. It is sustained by the generous support from individuals, foundations, corporations, the tireless efforts of volunteers, and embraced by the community of Fort Worth. The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is a proud member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions.


201 Main Street, Suite 100
Fort Worth, TX 76102


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