Jonathan Indajang ’25 won the annual Cornell Concerto Competition, held Dec. 6 at Barnes Hall. He will perform the first two movements of Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto in G Minor, Op. 25 with the Cornell Symphony Orchestra at a concert on March 2, 2024 at 3pm in Bailey Hall. The concert is free and open to the public with no tickets required.
Originally from Singapore, Indajang is majoring in biomedical engineering and minoring in music and has been playing the piano since he was six. He was drawn to Cornell’s strong engineering program, which gave him the flexibility to explore his variety of interests, including music and medicine. Jonathan says he is “extremely passionate about combining the two, and I often draw qualitative parallels in working in medicine and music. Music has instilled a degree of discipline and attentiveness that I apply when working in research or in medicine, and music provides an extra dimension to my work by providing me with another passion between my academic pursuits. When I volunteer and work in healthcare settings, I often find that music is an incredible way to connect with healthcare professionals and patients, and I have held insightful and deeply thoughtful discussions between patients and other healthcare practitioners that originated around music.” Outside of music, Jonathan is heavily involved in biomedical research on campus, as well as teaching piano lessons to other Cornellians through the Cornell Piano Society.
Jonathan enrolled at Cornell in 2019 and began studying piano with Xak Bjerken, but from 2020 to 2022, he took two years off to serve in the Singapore Armed Forces as a combat medic. He describes Bjerken as an “extremely supportive and a patient teacher” and enjoys the collaborative aspects of their lessons. Indajang is thankful that Bjerken “expand[ed] my scope and perspective in music, exposing me to a greater repertoire,” including the Mendelssohn concerto. While he had known about the piece previously, Jonathan only started to consider it at Bjerken’s suggestion, noting that he “had some trepidation about the piece simply because it felt quite different from what I am more familiar with, but Dr. Bjerken and I agreed it would be a challenging and rewarding experience to work through interpreting the piece.”
Director of Orchestras Gabriela Gómez Estévez says “we are excited to feature Jonathan as a soloist on the Mendelssohn with the CSO in March. Jonathan's nuanced approach and his mature understanding of the piece stood out in his performance. I know it will be an exciting and enriching collaboration!”
Jonathan agrees, saying “it has been on my bucket list to collaborate with an orchestra on a concerto. I look forward to actively collaborating and learning alongside the orchestra to produce a worthwhile performance.”
Judges selected three other finalists during the competition.
Ellen Foreman, piano, is majoring in computer science and music in the class of ’27 and is part of the Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity. She performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23 and currently studies with Xak Bjerken. She was previously the winner of the William Knabe International Piano Competition and the Texas State International Piano Festival Concerto Competition, and she was featured on NPR’s From the Top Show #415.
Cellist Andrew Wallace, ‘24, an economics major with minors in public policy and European studies, performed Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33. Wallace studies with John Haines-Eitzen at Cornell. As part of the Kalico Quartet at the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) Pre-College Division, Andrew won the 2019 MSM Chamber Music Competition and was also featured on Show #376 of NPR’s From the Top.
Laura Gong, flute, studies with Elizabeth Shuhan and performed Chaminade’s Flute Concertino. She is majoring in information science in the class of ’25 and is the principal flautist of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra. Laura previously held the same position in the Golden State Youth Orchestra, won the GSYO concerto competition, and participated in the California All-State Symphony Orchestra and Wind Symphony.
The annual competition is sponsored by the Department of Music and is open to all student musicians at Cornell. The competition featured 17 young musicians, and Gómez Estévez says “it was inspiring to witness the hard work and commitment to excellence they brought to their performances. Providing students with a platform to showcase their talent and hard work is a crucial part of fostering a vibrant musical community. I am grateful for the dedication and commitment of everyone involved, including faculty, staff, and volunteers, who ensured that the competition ran smoothly.”
This year’s judges were Chris Coletti (assistant professor of music performance at Ithaca College), Alexandra Jones (professional cellist), and Benjamin Rochford (assistant professor of music performance and associate director of bands at Ithaca College).