Musicians, music educators and students to converge in Garden Grove

Musicians, music educators and students to converge in Garden Grove
Piano prodigy Annie Li performs in May at Carnegie Hall in New York City. She is scheduled to perform at the Music Teachers’ Assn. of California Piano Concerto Competition in Garden Grove. (Photo by Francis Catania)

Annie Li of Irvine is already a champion piano player.

But she could add another trophy to her case when she represents Southern California and competes against her Northern California counterpart June 30 during the Music Teachers’ Assn. of California (MTAC) Piano Concerto Competition.


“I’m excited. I’m not too nervous,” said Li, 15, who recently finished her freshman year at Portola High School in Irvine. “I’m still trying hard to practice. Most of the time, I get really nervous before I perform. But when I actually start playing, it gets a lot better, because I just think about the music and try my best and have fun.”

Li will perform Franz Liszt’s “Rhapsodie Espagnole S. 254,” which she played in May at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Li is one of about 4,000 expected to converge on the Hyatt Regency Orange County in Garden Grove, where the MTAC’s 108th convention is taking place June 29 to July 3. It’s an annual, statewide gathering of music teachers, students and professional artists to celebrate and advance music education.


Several free concerts are scheduled, including a Young Artist Guild Recital at 8:30 p.m. June 29, the Piano Concerto Competition at 7:45 p.m. June 30, the world premiere of Bruce Stark’s “Three Dances” at 1 p.m. July 1, a Vocal, Orchestral Instruments, Chamber Music, Ensemble (VOCE) Recital at 7:45 p.m. July 1, and the Jon Manasse/Jon Nakamatsu Duo at 8:30 p.m. July 2.

The celebrated Ahn Trio will participate in a “musical conversation” June 29 and perform June 30 with a piano trio and July 1 in a master class. (Registration is required to attend.) In addition, the convention will feature panel discussions, workshops and master classes, an exhibit hall for vendors and other performances.

Founded in 1897, the Music Teachers’ Assn. of California offers programs that help teachers and students with instruction, curricula and performance. Similar to a trade organization, the MTAC offers benefits and guidance to its members, a chance to network and certificates of merit for achievement in more than a dozen instruments.

Headquartered in San Francisco, the MTAC is divided into Northern California and Southern California regions, with 63 branches statewide, seven in Orange County.

The annual convention alternates between Northern and Southern California each year. The last time the convention was held in Orange County was in 1984 at Chapman College (now University).

“It’s a chance to be with like-minded people that have the same goals,” said Rhonda Williams, executive director of MTAC. “I think it’s important because we have a lot of teachers just teaching on their own. It’s an opportunity to meet other music teachers that have similar goals and bounce ideas off of each other.”

Those who participate in the Piano Concerto Competition are not only competing for prestige. They are vying for cash prizes of up to $650. In her age division, Li has the opportunity to win $450. Award money comes from donations to the MTAC Foundation.

Though she doesn’t necessarily see music as a career path, Li said the music, recitals and competitions have added to her quality of life.

“I think the piano is something I want to continue for the rest of my life, because I think it’s good for me,” said the prodigy, who started playing when she was 6. “A lot of times, the piano is fun to play, and it also helps me express my emotions, so when I’m feeling sad, I can play sad pieces and help myself feel better.”

Also on the convention schedule are Alan Chapman, a scholar, composer and deejay on classical station KUSC (91.5 FM), who will deliver a keynote address on June 30; and Jeremy Siskind, an accomplished jazz pianist, who will perform a recital at 5:15 p.m. June 30 and conduct a master class on improvisation at 1 p.m. July 1.


What: Music Teachers’ Assn. of California annual convention

When: June 29 to July 3

Where: Hyatt Regency Orange County, 11999 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove

Cost: Many events free; registration is $180 to $460

Information: (800) 834-3340 or

Richard Chang is a contributor to Times Community News.