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Qatar National Music Competition

Competition Structure

Artistic Director


SONJA PARK
‘A Pianist who moves people’

As a young child Sonja Park visited Ronald Reagan in the White House only to sing in a children’s choir from Seoul. Nothing is scripted like an American President’s schedule. Yet Sonja played the piano as well, delighting Reagan so much that he dandled her on his knee.

At the age of 21 Ms. Park’s life changed dramatically when Alexander Jenner heard her in Vienna. Telling her she was “the most talented student he had ever met,” he demanded she become a professional musician, even though she was largely self-taught at that time. Professor Jenner dedicated his last years as a teacher to her at the University of Vienna, where she earned a Degree in Piano Performance with distinction.

As a fully developed artist Sonja continues to make an impact. While still studying, Dora Schwarzberg and Mark Drobinsky asked her to replace Martha Argerich and Alexander Rabinowitsch. With ten days’ notice she learned and performed six Beethoven piano trios with them at the Beethoven Festival in Brescia, Italy.

Sonja’s litany of remarkable stories continues. Recently Ms. Park was invited to open the Katara Cultural Village Opera House in Doha, performing Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Born in Seoul, Sonja Park was educated there and in Vienna. The University of Vienna honored her with awards and scholarships from Gonda Weiner, Herbert von Karajan Society, Gesellschaft für Musikfreunde, Ministry for Transport and Science, and Sobotka-Janicek Foundation. In competition Ms. Park won prizes at the Brahms International, Karajan Society, Premio Rodolfo Caporalli, Premio Vittorio Gui and Premio Trio di Trieste.

Sonja Park has collaborated and performed alongside such musicians as Paul Badura Skoda, Max Rysanov, Nikolas Harnoncourt, Dora Schwarzberg, Michael Gutman, Anton Sorokow and Philippe Entremont.

She has appeared on Austrian Radio ORF, Hungarian Radio, RAI UNO in Italy, Slovak Radio and NHK Television in Japan. Ms. Park has played in such concert halls as Konzerthaus Wien, Suntory Hall Tokyo, Wigmore Hall London and Teatro del Maggio Florence, in addition to performances in Bahrain, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Kuwait, Russia at the Andrey Sakharov International Art Festival, Slovenia, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

2012 saw Sonja in nothing fewer than 40 performances as a soloist and ensemble player.

Find out more about Sonja Park at herwebsite

Managing Director


JORIS LAENEN
“Music ignites in me a flame of intrigue, and I feel I must ‘paint’ every colour I am imagining.”

Multi-talented Joris Laenen is a composer, pianist and also co-prinicpal trumpet player with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. Joris was born in Belgium and drawn to music at a very early age. He studied both piano and trumpet at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp before moving to Frankfurt to obtain his Masters degree.

He was a prize winner in several international competitions. As a pianist he is also the founding member and artistic director of ‘Emoción – The Sounds of Tango’. For this ensemble he composes and writes arrangements.

In 2013 he founded together with his wife Sonja Park the non-profit organisation ‘Moving Young Artists’ through which they want to support local talents in Qatar.

Found out more about Joris Laenen at www.emociontango.com

Honorary marketing consultant


SHEHZAD BHANJI
‘Wizard Of Light Bulb Moments’

Shehzad is a global marketing, communications and brand strategist with over 18 years of experience in diverse industries. He has worked in Asia, Europe and Middle East. He was awarded GCC’s Best Marketer by Chief Marketing Council Asia in Oct 2016.

Shehzad is also an instrumental rock guitarist with 2 commercially successful albums to his name. His fan base is spread across all continents and has been featured in leading magazines such as Rolling Stone, Premier Guitar, Fretboard Journal, Jamsphere to name few.

Shehzad is passionate about music, marketing and arts. He has helped musicians, artists, photographer and authors from around the world in building their strategic marketing, PR & brand roadmap.

He is strong supporter of community projects and wants to make a difference through his experience. He has worked closely with leading NGO’s such as UNICEF, WWF, Injaz on projects focusing on start-ups, education, economic empowerment, life skills development and with Qatar University as a Corporate Mentor.

Find out more about Shehzad Bhanji at www.shehzadbhanji.com

Project manager


JANET GOULD