St Paul’s School pianist wins inaugural Coach House Piano Competition 2019 final

By Lucy Maddox - June 03, 2019

The inaugural final of the Coach House Piano Competition for schools took place at Queen Anne’s School in Caversham on Sunday 12th May 2019.


The day was a huge success. Queen Anne’s School offered the perfect setting in its wonderful new music facilities and School Hall. The warmth of the hospitality provided by the staff created the perfect atmosphere and environment to enable the competitors to perform at their very best. The standard of performances was utterly breath-taking.


The aim of this biennial competition is to provide gifted pianists with the opportunity to represent their school and compete in a similar way to inter-school sporting competitions.  It is also intended to give young pianists a positive and inspirational challenge, and to provide them with the type of experience they can expect in a music college environment.


David Halford, Education Business Manager at Coach House Pianos, and organiser of the competition is a lifelong advocate for the promotion of music in schools and a passionate believer in the importance of music in the education of children. 


“In planning this competition, I wanted to create an event that would engage schools across the UK and provide a platform for their most gifted pianists. Music competitions are normally very individual and lonely activities, so I wanted competitors to feel that by representing their school, they had the support and backing of their school communities, with the ultimate prize being the chance to win a new piano for their school.”


The first round of the competition saw 27 schools select a student to represent them. Competitors were asked to submit a filmed performance that included a first movement of a classical period sonata and a short piece of their own choosing. The adjudicator for this round was Peter Lawson, eminent teacher and member of staff at Chetham’s School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. The 6 students selected to compete in the final came from St Paul’s School, Bromsgrove School, Wells Cathedral School, Stowe School, Harrow School and Dulwich College.


For the final, the competitors were all given a masterclass by a member of the final jury in the morning, and then asked to perform a 30-minute recital in the afternoon. The jury for the final consisted of Professor John Thwaites, Head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire; Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard and Professor of Piano at the Royal College of Music; and Melvyn Cooper, Vice Chair of the European Piano Teachers’ Association, and Vice Chair of the Beethoven and Liszt societies.   


The competitors all performed on a beautiful Yamaha CFX concert grand piano, provided by Yamaha Music UK. The winner of the competition was Noah Zhou from St Paul’s School in London. Noah performed an eclectic programme including works by Rachmaninov, Bach, Beethoven and Skoryk. The jury were unanimous in their decision to award first place to Noah. In winning the competition, he won a new Yamaha upright piano for his school (sponsored by Yamaha Music UK), and was presented with a £300 cheque that was generously sponsored by Axis Lease Management.


Photo 3James Sargeant (left) from Yamaha Music Europe (UK), David Halford (centre) from Coach House,  and Noah, seated at the Yamaha B1 piano that he won for St Paul’s School


Photo 2

Noah being awarded the winners’ plate by John Padley, Director of Music at Queen Anne’s School Caversham


Noah began playing the piano at the age of 5. He is now in his last year as a music scholar at St. Paul’s School London, studying piano under Professor Hilary Coates and Professor Christopher Elton. Having already attained significant performance experience, he has been awarded a full scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Music where he will begin studying in September.  


Second prize was awarded to Devin Liu from Dulwich College, and third prize to Jude Wynter from Bromsgrove School. All six finalists will be receiving copies of the new Associated Board complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas, edited by the world-renowned Beethoven expert Barry Cooper.


Coach House would like to thank all the staff at Queen Anne’s School Caversham, particularly the Director of Music John Padley for his tireless support; the members of the jury for their immense skill and expertise; Yamaha Music and Axis Lease Management for sponsoring the competition; and finally, all the students, staff and parents from every school that took part from the outset, and made this inaugural event such a success.


We are looking forward with great excitement to the next Coach House Piano Competition for schools in 2021.



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