American Concert Pianist, Steinway Artist, Susan Merdinger

Reflections on Winning....

I sit here today and am proud announce the news about my dear friend and colleague, German-born violin virtuoso, David Yonan, winning First Prize in the Alexander Buono International String Competition, with his performance on the Four Centuries CD we just recorded together in July leading to this significant prize. 

David Yonan is already a First Prize winner of so many international competitions- I don't have to recount them here- you can visit his website to learn more: But what I can say is that this award is very much deserved and hard-earned. David has struggled to achieve success as a violinist living in this country mostly due to his immigration problems. In addition to his exceptional talent as a  virtuoso performing violinist he is also one of Chicago's finest violin teachers. I know this because I selected him to be my daughter, Sarah Greene's violin teacher when she was just in high school back in 2008. Sarah, as well as so many other of David's students have gone on to achieve great things in music. In spite of David Yonan's wonderful abilities as a performer and teacher, our glorious country, the United States of America, has denied him his Green Card repeatedly- when he applied as an "Artist of Extraordinary Ability". I have worked hard to bolster his confidence and have helped him fight back this continued disillusionment at both the policies of our Immigration Service, and also the continual hardship and rejection that he has faced as a musician in this country- as ALL musicians face throughout their careers. What has kept him going is knowing that people love his playing and his teaching- they see and hear the very obvious results- plus, he has the passion and dedication to music and an inner belief and confidence in his abilities. Otherwise, he would have dropped out of music a long time ago.

However, it doesn't matter how much one believes in one's NEEDS public recognition and validation. This can come in the form of endorsements from prominent musicians, winning prizes and awards, and getting excellent reviews from critics for performances and recordings. And even with all this public recognition of one's talent, an artist can still not succeed, and not receive the recognition they deserve. Which is why I support the competitions which allow seasoned professionals to put their music out there to receive the accolades and recognition. Winning a competition at the professional level doesn't  necessarily help us musicians feel any better about our own abilities- we wouldn't be doing this if we felt any differently about our own talents-  but, for some reason, it DOES have an impact on what OTHER people think. 

That is why I have personally entered and continue to win prizes myself...First Prize in the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition, (  A Gold Medal in the Global Music Awards, ( First Prize in the Music Competition of France...etc...This is why we continue to seek out critical reviews in well-established publications such as Fanfare Magazine, Classical Candor, Classical Sentinel, The American Record Guide, Audio-Video Club of Atlanta, Mainly Piano and more.
Bolstering music careers of deserving artists is not the only purpose of music criticism- which is an art form unto itself- but it certainly does help. 

So, what does WINNING a PRIZE truly mean to any artist, musician or athlete? I means some gratification for the hard work put in; it means validation from outside, objective sources- even when the critieria for winning are decidedly subjective- as in music and art; and, in David Yonan's case it means finally being able to say to our US Immigration Service- " You are WRONG- I belong here just like all the other musicians who came here and sit in the chairs of our symphony orchestras, and teach in our music conservatories, and play community concerts and in public libraries for a pittance just for the enhancement of our cultural life and betterment of our society. 

Bravo, David! It is a pleasure to collaborate with you because YOU ARE an ARTIST of EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY. And now the world must KNOW it. And hopefully, someone can help you cut through the bureaucratic "red tape" and help you vault over these hurdles placed before you in order to be able to live in the USA- which you have made you home for over 15 years- as a LEGAL CITIZEN, with all the rights and privileges associated with being a citizen of the USA.

Please remember that whenever you go hear a seasoned, professional musician perform- you are witnessing a person who has likely been practicing their instrument since the age of 4 or 5 years, and still puts in hours a day practicing and rehearsing to maintain their skills, learn and promote new music, and continue to strive for perfection. Playing a musical instrument requires the processing skills of a surgeon, the emotional depth of a poet, and the complete mastery of the universal language of music. While young prodigies are impressive indeed- the ability to sustain the talent and drive into mature adulthood is the sign of a true artist.

For those of you who have not yet heard our FOUR CENTURIES CD- please visit our webpage for more information and support this cause to help a very deserving musician.  

For those of you living in New York- David will make his Carnegie Recital Debut on Sunday October 25th, 2015, accompanied by your truly.  Please visit for more information.

1 comment

  • Joan Merdinger

    Joan Merdinger New York

    Wonderful article about David Yonan and the process of becoming a world class artist, and also becoming a citizen of the USA. We cannot wait to hear David's beautiful violin playing again, having heard him in Chicago on several occasions, and wishing he would come to NY.

    Wonderful article about David Yonan and the process of becoming a world class artist, and also becoming a citizen of the USA. We cannot wait to hear David's beautiful violin playing again, having heard him in Chicago on several occasions, and wishing he would come to NY.

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