By Ainsley Layland
Mendham native, Jake Cheng and his duet partner Jeffrey Koc won the 2016-2017 New Jersey Music Teachers National Association State Competition for high marks on their senior piano duet on Nov. 5. The competition took place at Rowan University in Glassboro.
Winning this competition in November qualified Cheng to compete in the Music Teachers National Association Senior Piano Duet Performance competition taking place Jan. 7-8, 2017.
He and Koc plan to compete with the winners from eleven other states participating in the Eastern Conference. The winner of the 2017 competition will move on to perform at the national level which will be held in Baltimore, Md.
Cheng, 15, is a sophomore at West Morris Mendham High School. In recent years he has competed and performed in various distinguished venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, the Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Mayo performing Arts Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Cheng also competed in the 19th Annual Cecilian Young Artist Competition and won, a tradition he has kept up since he was 10 years old. Winning the Cecilian Young Artist Competition means Cheng was scheduled to return to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center to perform on Dec. 11 as part of the Young Artist Winner’s Recital.
Last year he won a scholarship to attend the Westminster Choir College High School Piano Camp. In order to compete for the scholarship, students submit a 300-400 word essay, a letter of recommendation from their teacher, and describe the summer enrichment program they most wish to attend. The winners are awarded $500 to put towards their elected program, thanks to The Cecilian Music Club of Freehold.
The Cecilian Music Club was founded in 1883 and is made up of teachers, music lovers, and performers dedicated to the study and performance of classical music, according to cecilianclub.org.
Cheng’s instructor, Dr. Julia Lam, is a member of the New Jersey Music Teachers Association and currently teaches at her studio in Bridgewater. Previously she has worked as a member of faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and Assistant Professor at Malone College in Ohio.
The New Jersey Music Teachers Association is a non-profit organization, founded in 1954 and is an affiliate of the national association. The organization works to advance musical knowledge and promote professional growth among music teachers, and to conduct activities which encourage and support teaching, performance, composition and the appreciation of music, according to njmta.com.