First Theme and Variations Awards all go to young players from Sydney.

The Advisory Board of the Theme and Variations Foundation has made its first awards under its new grants scheme. Three pianists were given grants: Tony Lee receives $10,000, Hank Xiang receives $8,000 and Joshua Han won the $2,000 Encouragement Award.

The foundation’s goal is to support exceptional, young Australian pianists who might be suffering financial hardship and since its February 2012 launch, it has focussed on raising donations to build up a fund through private events for dedicated supporters. The success of the program has enabled it to make initial grants totaling $20,000 to three musicians.

All three are currently students at the Sydney Conservatorium.

23-year-old Tony Lee started playing at the age of 5 and will be graduating in December. Earlier this year he was the winner of the 2013 Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition.

Hank Xiang, also 23, started his lessons at the age of 12 and is already in St Petersburg at the Rimsky Korsakov State Conservatory. He is apparently both freezing and beginning his Russian language lessons as he commences to study with Nina Seryogina.

Joshua Han was born in August 2002, making him just 11. He...

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