Iolani School teens become first musicians from Hawaii to win national piano competition


Iolani School students Sophie Nguyen and Naomi Kobayashi became the first musicians from Hawaii to win first prize at the Music Teachers National Association’s National Performance Competition.

“I’m really happy for our teacher. She was really rooting for us the entire time. This has been her dream. I’m really glad we can achieve that,” said Nguyen.

Under the tutelage of Honolulu piano teacher Joanna Zane-Fan, the duo’s winning performance comprised of four pieces: Beethoven Sonata in D Major, Op. 6; Rachmaninov Six Morceaux; Samuel Barber Souvenirs, Ballet suite Op. 28, “Hesitation Tango”; and Aram Khachaturian “Saber Dance.”

The teens say they practiced multiple times weekly for months to prepare for the competition.

“There’s a story behind every song that we play. I hope they’ll enjoy the piece we’re playing and enjoy our interpretation of it,” said Kobayashi.

The competition was scheduled for March 2020 in Chicago, but was moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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