Competition Judges

Leslie Downs

Dr. Leslie Downs is active as both a solo and collaborative pianist. He has performed in solo,lieder,chamber and choral concerts throughout the United States and in Canada. He has served as music director for regional musical theatre productions. For 16 years he worked as a freelance pianist/teacher/vocal coach in New York City. He currently serves as the Music Director for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana,Yale University,and University of Oklahoma.


Koeun Grace Lee

South Korean native Koeun Grace Lee is an avid performer,educator,and conference presenter across the U.S. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance and a Post Master's Certificate in Music Theory Pedagogy from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro,a Master of Music degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music,and Bachelor of Music and Artist Diploma from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.  Dr. Lee has performed in master classes of internationally renowned pianists Kevin Kenner,Boaz Sharon,William Westney,Simone Dinnerstein,Jacques Després,Pascal Rogé,Jeremy Denk,Dror Biran,Joel Hastings,André Watts,and Byron Janis. She is a Piano Faculty member and Departmental Accompanist at Brevard College,Mars Hill University,and at the Academy for the Arts at First Baptist Church of Asheville. She also serves as Director of Music at Oakley United Methodist Church. She is an active member of Asheville Area Piano Forum,Music Teachers National Association,College Music Society,and Suzuki Association of the Americas.


Virgina McKnight

Virginia McKnight has degrees from Stetson University and Florida State University as well as a Certificate from the Neuchatel Conservatory in Neuchatel,Switzerland.  She has made a career of collaborative piano including work at Yale University. Ithaca College,Cornell University and in New York City. Before moving to Asheville,Virginia taught and accompanied at Stetson University.  In Asheville,She has  worked as pianist at the Asheville Community Theater,Haywood Arts Repertory Theater,Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater,Mars Hill University,UNC Asheville,and Reynold’s High School. Virginia is also the Organist and Music Director at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Asheville.


Paul Nitsch

Paul Nitsch is the Carolyn G. McMahon Professor of Music and the Macavity Artist-in-Residence at Queens University of Charlotte.  He holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Piano Performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore,Md.,University where he studied with Walter Hautzig and Leon Fleisher.  He earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Collaborative Piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music with pianist Anne Epperson.  He also received two Fulbright Foreign Study Grants to study at the Hochschule Für Music und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna,Austria,with Dieter Weber and Noel Flores.


Eunice Stackhouse

Dr. Eunice Wonderly Stackhouse holds degrees in piano performance from Indiana University (M.M., with high distinction) and the University of Kansas (D.M.A., with honors);  and a B.M.E. degree from Grace College (summa cum laude).  She was elected to lifetime membership in Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honor Society by the Indiana University chapter.

Her teaching career began in Indianapolis where for 13 years she taught 30-45 private students, ages 4–adult, and also accompanied and taught as an adjunct at the University of Indianapolis.  She then began her doctoral work while holding adjunct or sabbatical replacement positions at Tabor and Sterling Colleges in Kansas; and later at Grove City College and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  

Since 1996, she has taught courses in Piano Pedagogy and Literature, Applied & Class Piano, Music Theory I – IV,  Counterpoint, and Form & Analysis at Montreat College, and was the 2006 recipient of the David L. Parks Distinguished Professor Award there.   

She has performed extensively in solo and chamber recital settings, including solo recitals recorded and broadcast by WQED-Pittsburgh and Radio Kansas.  She has presented lecture-recitals at several conferences, including the Twenty-Fourth National Conference of The Society for American Music, Scripps College Symposium on Women in Music, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the College Music Society, and Ruth Crawford in Chicago at Elmhurst College. She served for several years as a state officer for NCMTA, and frequently  adjudicates piano competitions and festivals.

Her dissertation on the piano music of Louise Talma was published by University Microfilms Inc. (#9540200).   Her article on Louise Talma’s Soundshots was published by Clavier in November 2002, and she edited the first publication of Talma’s Three Bagatelles in 2003 for Hildegard Publishing Company.

As Professor of Music, she continues to teach Piano and Music Theory on an adjunct basis at Montreat College, while also maintaining a small studio of private students.

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