It’s Never Too Late
By Jeff Roberts
School of Music Graduate competes in International Piano Competition after just two years of playing jazz piano.
She has only been playing jazz piano for a little over two years now, but recent School of Music graduate Holly Moyer was invited to compete in one of the most prestigious piano competitions in the world in January 2020.
The University of South Africa (Pretaria, South Africa) International Piano Competition has been held annually for the past 14 years, with pianists and jury members from all over the world. This year’s competition included 30 total participants—14 in jazz piano and 16 in classical piano.
Moyer never had her eyes set on competing in a such a prestigious competition, especially since she is still so early in her professional career. “A friend of mine that had placed in the competition before suggested that I apply for it,” said Moyer. “I submitted three videos of three different styles of tunes and pieces.”
There were thousands of applicants from over 50 countries hoping to be chosen for this year’s competition. “I honestly didn’t think I would get chosen,” said Moyer. “When I found out that I was selected, I was in shock. I was honored to be part of something so special.”
The competition, which is televised across Africa, includes four rounds and is split into two categories—jazz and classical. Solo piano pieces played during the competition included works from well-known composers John Coltrane, Theolonius Monk, and Mulgrew Miller. Competitors were also required to play a South African work by Bokani Dyer.
“Overall it was just an incredible experience,” said Moyer. “The competition was beyond words. There are so many wonderful musicians that I was able to learn from while I was there, and most of them were already touring professionally. For me to get the opportunity to learn from them, it was a big deal for me being so new to this.”
“The competition was beyond words. There are so many wonderful musicians that I was able to learn from while I was there, and most of them were already touring professionally. For me to get the opportunity to learn from them, it was a big deal for me being so new to this.”
It wasn’t just the musical experience that Moyer will cherish, it was the cultural side, too. She was able to spend time with the other competitors, and learn about the other countries represented in the competition and the culture in South Africa.
“It was really interesting to hang out with the other participants, and it was fascinating to experience all of the different cultures,” said Moyer. “I definitely made some lasting connections and still stay in touch with some of them through social media.”
Though she didn’t place in the competition, being selected after only two years playing jazz piano is an accomplishment on its own. Recently retired jazz piano faculty Donald Brown played a huge role in preparing her for both this competition and her forthcoming professional career.
“I’m so grateful for Donald Brown’s guidance and the School of Music for allowing me to experience this competition,” said Moyer. “I never expected to get this far, this fast.”
Moyer is currently living in New York as she continues her studies and career in music as an artist-in-residence and music director at Five & Dime NYC.
“It took people believing in me first and then believing in myself,” said Moyer. “You can’t wait until you think you’re ready to do something. It’s never too late to take a chance and believe in yourself.”