Hudson -- Hudson High School sophomore Megan Lee won first prize in a national competition for piano March 10 in California.
Lee, the daughter of Peter and Grace Lee, won first prize in the National Finals of the Music Teachers National Association Senior Performance Competition.
"The competition was a thrilling, unforgettable experience," Megan said. "All the musicians regardless of what instrument they played, were of such a high caliber, and it was amazing to see students just like me gather from all corners of the country."
Megan has studied piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music for the past seven years and is a student of Sean Schulze.
Megan is the first preparatory piano student from Cleveland Institute of Music to win this prestigious award and the first pianist from Ohio to win this national award in the last 15 years, Schulze said.
"Megan's achievement with this award is a huge honor for her, for CIM and also for me as her teacher," Schulze said. "Winning the MTNA Senior Performance Competition is probably akin to winning the National Spelling Bee Contest in terms of the prestige and structure of the event as well as the quality of the other contestants."
During the multi-stage competition, she competed against division winners from different regions in the country. As part of her prize, she received $2,000 from the Yamaha Foundation of America and was invited to appear at the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy in Chicago in July.
Megan began her formal piano studies when she was 5 years old.
"Long before that, I was already dabbling on the piano in an effort to emulate my older sister, Stephanie," Megan said. "Growing up with her as a role model was such a blessing."
Megan said she has struggled to balance school, homework, extra-curricular activities and music, but when she practices piano for one to three hours daily, she is concerned more with the quality of her work rather than the amount spent at the keyboard.
"When I was growing up, my biggest goal was to convey the message the composers of the music I had the privilege of playing wanted to express," Megan said. "Little did I know that a hobby would become one of the biggest passions of my life."
Although one of the youngest competitors Megan displays an extraordinary level of virtuosity and musical sensitivity for her age, Schulze said.
"She is a fearless and communicative performer, able to deliver her very best under pressure situations," Schulze said. "This is a rare and valuable gift."
Megan considers herself a strong-minded individual and when she sets her mind to something, she accomplishes her goals.
"Although practicing is sometimes tedious, it is not an activity to me," Megan said. "I see it as a time for me to learn and blossom in musical maturity."
Megan said nerves are the toughest part about performing.
"Usually, the nerves have a way of leaving me once I get on stage," Megan said. "Music is a very subjective concept and there comes a point where I have to realize that I am there to tell my audience a story about the music I'm playing, and that is all I can do."
Playing the great works of the classical repertoire on the piano is an artistic journey without end, Schulze said. It is a journey that provides untold emotional, imaginative and even spiritual possibilities.
"I am honored to accompany and guide Megan on this journey as she continues to explore and deepen her knowledge and appreciation of this artistic world," he said. "Should Megan choose to follow a career in music, I have no doubt that she would gain admission to an elite conservatory of her choice."
Megan is involved in Jr. Leadership Hudson, student government, a writer for the school newspaper, president of the Hudson High School Student Volunteer Program, and a member of the Hudson Community First Youth Advisory Board.
"In general, I love giving back to the community and taking time out of my day to help others," Megan said. "One of my favorite things to do is volunteering at Laurel Lake Retirement Center as I have been doing ever since I was five; it brings me so much joy to share my music with them."