Getting to Carnegie Hall

Harold Bailey (left) and Hao Qin (middle) with mentor Kwan Yi (left).

Harold Bailey looked skeptical when asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” It was as if he was unfamiliar with the joke.

The thing is Bailey, a senior at Radford University, and freshman Hao Qin both personally know the punchline – “practice.” Only for these two music majors concentrating in piano studies, this is no joke. It is real, and it is part of how both have received the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in New York.

Through the efforts of Kwan Yi, piano faculty, he encouraged both to enter the New York-based American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition 2016. This was open to school students and adults, who competed through videotaped performances. Winners have the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall.

Bailey, who was a second place winner, presented Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue No.17 in A Flat Major, WTC Book 1” and Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53, Movement 1.”

Qin, won an honorable mention with Chopin’s “Ballade in G Minor” and Beethoven’s “Sonata in C Minor, 1st Movement.”

The hardest part about this competition for each of them was not the memorization of complicated scores or the month of long practice hours. It was the process of making the entry video.

“For me the biggest challenge was simply focusing during the video recording,” Bailey said. “It's one thing to perform live in concert, but there seemed to be even more pressure in front of a camera.”

Perfection was Qin’s personal trial.

“The hard thing is, I always made mistakes when I was recording. I was never happy about my recordings,” he said.

And they were not alone in time spent producing their video. Yi, their mentor, spent hours in the recording booth with Lee Tolley, the Department of Music’s recording engineer and hall manager. As they recorded the student’s performance pieces, Yi listened carefully and made suggestions for improvement. He also provided extra lessons.

But all their efforts paid off and now they must get ready to perform at one of the most prestigious concert venues in the world.

“It is important for young pianists to have performance experience,” said Yi. “One can play beautifully in a practice room but one has to be able to deliver successfully onstage if he/she aspires to be a performer and this requires practice.”

He said that though student performances on campus are wonderful opportunities, they need to branch out and experience the real world. This competition gives the winners that opportunity.

As a performing pianist, Yi travels and must often arrange transportation and lodging for himself with the help of the concert presenters.

“Harold and Hao would also need to do exactly that – arrange their own travels and lodging for their performances at Carnegie,” he said. “This will give them a glimpse of how things work outside of school or their comfort zone.”

Bailey's performance at Carnegie Hall is May 21. Qin’s date is Nov. 26.

To see Bailey’s competition videos go to and


Mar 10, 2016