LAWRENCE — University of Kansas alumnus Benjamin Dominguez has recently been awarded first place in the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Young Artist Performance Competition.
MTNA announced the winners from each category of the competition April 20 through an email sent to all contestants. There were seven competitors in the national final round for the Young Artists piano division.
In the past, all levels of the competition have been performed in person, but in recent years MTNA switched to video competitions for the regional round, with the final round being performed in person at the annual MTNA National Conference. This year, the MTNA National Conference, originally set for March 21–25 in Chicago, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and — for the first time in history — each round was decided by video competition.
Dominguez, from East Berlin, Pennsylvania, earned his bachelor's degree in piano in 2019 and will pursue his masters of music in piano performance at Juilliard this fall, after taking a year off from academics to focus on studying piano with Jack Winerock, KU professor of piano.
"After beginning my senior year at KU in the fall of 2018, both Dr. Winerock and I felt that I could benefit from taking a gap year in college," Dominguez said. "From both technical and musical considerations of piano playing, I still had much to learn from Dr. Winerock before starting graduate school. During this gap year I was able to focus more on practicing, giving recitals — I performed quite a bit in Kansas and Pennsylvania in the fall, entering competitions, and preparing for graduate auditions, as I no longer had any academic workload. It was a tremendously helpful time for me, as it has allowed me to focus solely on music."
At the age of 15 Dominguez began a more rigorous study of piano and came to the realization that piano performance was the path he wanted to pursue in college. Dominguez credits Winerock for helping him to grow as a musician and for urging him to compete.
"I feel that I have grown tremendously while studying with Dr. Winerock over the last five years," Dominguez said. "It was with Dr. Winerock that I participated in my very first piano competition, which was the Kansas senior division of MTNA in 2015, during my freshman year of college."
The MTNA National Competitions are the most successful and prestigious student competitions in the country Each year, thousands of students compete for top prizes and national recognition. The purpose of the Music Teachers National Association Performance competitions is to provide educational experiences for students and teachers and to recognize exceptionally talented young artists and their teachers in their pursuit of musical excellence.