Classical and Jazz Piano Side by Side in Pretoria

The UNISA Competition presents its 2024 winners in the South African capital

The highly anticipated 15th Unisa International Piano Competition has presented six winners- three in the classical and three in the Jazz category: Leo de Maria (28) won First Prize for Classical Piano, performing with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Gudni Emilsson; Dabin Ryu (29) came out at the top of the Jazz category, performing with Shaun Johannes (Bass) and Kevin Gibson (Drums).

Leo de Maria/ Classical 1st prize, Karendra Devroop/ Jury chair, Dabin Ryu/ Jazz 1st prize

Born in Madrid in 1995, Leo de Maria began his musical training at the age of 11. He studied in Madrid under the direction of Maestro Leonel Morales, and later completed his Master’s studies with Maestro Pavel Gililov at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg. Performing in many countries around the world, he is also a Professor at the Faculty of Music and Performing Arts of the University Alfonso X El Sabio of Madrid (UAX) and the Superior School Forum Musikae (FMK).

Leo de María has won more than 40 national and international awards. Highlights include 

Second Prize in the International Competitions Johann Nepomuk Hummel of Bratislava, Santa Cecilia of Oporto in Portugal, Épinal of France,and Third Prize at the International Competition Ettore Pozzoli of Seregno.

Leo de Maria, 1st prize winner (Classical)

Dabin Ryu is an award winning jazz pianist from Seoul. Her musical journey started at age 3 with classical piano. After high school, Dabin attended Berklee College of Music, majoring in Jazz Performance and Jazz Composition, ultimately graduating in 2018. She then continued her education at Manhattan School of Music, graduating with a Masters degree in Jazz

Throughout her career, Dabin has had the pleasure to perform with world renowned artists such as Neal Smith, Rodney Jones, Kurt Elling, and Carl Allen, among others. Dabin’s performing has brought her all around the world, performing at venues such as Smalls Jazz Club, Jazz Gallery, Zinc Bar, Dizzy’s Club, Scullers, Harlem Stage, Berklee Performance Center, Williamsburg Music Center, CJ Azit, and many others.  

Dabin Ryu/ 1st prize winner (jazz)

The UNISA Music Foundation presents its national music competitions in exactly the same format than its international music competitions with the specific aim to accustom young South African musicians to the stringent standards applied internationally.  So far a national organ, two piano and one string competition preceded the Unisa International Music Competitions in which the first prize winner and runner-up competed against a selected number of young overseas musicians.

The first International Music Competition (for piano) was held at Unisa in Pretoria in 1982.  The winner of this event a Canadian pianist Marc-André Hammelin has since then established himself as a sought after international pianist.  Other prize winners at Unisa include sopranos Renée Fleming and Sumi Jo, tenors Johan Botha and Kobie van Rensburg, cellists Alexander Knyazev, and Jerôme Pernoo, violinists Benjamin Schmidt, Dmitri Makhtin. 

Famous judges of the competitions include Guido Agosti, Georgy Sandor, Marie Claire Alain, Maria Kliegel, Martina Arroyo, John O’Connor, Sergey Dorensky and many others.


Prize winners (classical)

Prize winners (jazz)

1st Prize: Leo de Maria (28), Madrid
2nd Prize:  Elizaveta Ukrainskaia (27), St. Petersburg
3rd Prize: William Bracken (24), London

1st Prize: Dabin Ryu (29), Seoul
2nd Prize: Tomas Jonsson (23), Denton
3rd Prize: Zibusiso Makhathini (30), Durban

Karendra Devroop (Chair), Ludmil Angelov, Hugues Leclere, Albert Mamriev, Nina Schumann, Xin Wang

Karendra Devroop (Chair), Cyrus Chestnut, Kevin Harris, Makiko Hirabayashi, John Paul McGee, Hans Vroomans

Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra / Gudni A. Emilsson (Conductor)

Shaun Johannes (Bass), Kevin Gibson (Drums)

Elizaveta Ukrainskaia, 2nd prize classical category

Thomas Johnsson, 2nd prize jazz category

WIlliam Bracken, 3rd prize classical category

Zibusiso Makhathini_3rd prize jazz category