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Southeastern Piano Festival

For one week every June, the Southeastern Piano Festival (SEPF) and the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition transforms the University of South Carolina School of Music and the city of Columbia into a major cultural destination that draws in audiences and young piano talent from across the United States. 

The Southeastern Piano Festival embraces a multi-faceted personality. It is: 

  • a high-level training platform for the young pianists,
  • a presenter of new and world-renowned concert pianists and master teachers,
  • an advocate for new piano music, and
  •  a vehicle for exploring different roles the piano plays on stage and beyond.

Twenty of the most accomplished pre-college pianists on the piano scene today take part in a rigorous program that includes daily lessons with University of South Carolina piano faculty, master classes with guest artists, and up to five hours of practice a day. The week’s events culminate with the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition, adjudicated by a distinguished panel of judges. Winners of the competition receive cash awards and the opportunity to perform with the South Carolina Philharmonic. For music lovers, SEPF offers nightly concerts by a rich lineup of world-class pianists including Inon Barnatan, Rachel Breen, Marina Lomazov, Lisa Moore, and Joseph Rackers.

Founded in 2003 and led for 20 seasons by former USC faculty Marina Lomazov and Joseph Rackers, the Southeastern Piano Festival is now under the leadership of Artistic Director Phillip Bush, Executive Director Caroline Earp, Associate Director Nicholas Susi and Associate Administrator Elizabeth Churchya.

The Festival presents a perfect symbiosis of the new generation of pianists in search of inspiration and challenge and the world-class guest artists who provide that inspiration. The attraction of SEPF lies in its versatility — be it a budding piano virtuoso, an educator or a music aficionado — the festival offers something for everyone who loves piano.


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Southeastern Piano Festival Leadership

Acclaimed as “a pianist of poetry, elegance, and power” (American Record Guide), “a pianist of exceptional, cherishable finesse” (Los Angeles Times), and “one of those rare pianists who combine structural intelligence with a hundred color gradations” (Village Voice), SEPF Executive Director Phillip Bush has established a performing career over the past three decades that is noted for its remarkable versatility and eclecticism, with a repertoire extending from the 16th century to the 21st. 

Caroline Earp, Executive Director, brings to the leadership of Southeastern Piano Festival her passion and experience in working with non-profits and academic institutions in both New York City and Columbia, SC. A graduate of Columbia College of SC with a degree in Vocal Performance, Earp is currently Director of Alumni and Donor Engagement for the USC School of Music.

Nicholas Susi joins Southeastern Piano Festival as Assistant Director. Described in The WholeNote as “an innovative musician and aggressive thinker with a gift for keyboard brilliance,” Susi enjoys a multifaceted career living out his deep love of music. He recognizes that Classical music has been a transformative force in his life, and seeks to share its power with others through his teaching and performing. Susi joined the University of South Carolina School of Music as Assistant Professor of Piano in 2022. He previously taught piano and music theory at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. 

Pianist Elizabeth Churchya is a charismatic and sensitive performer who has concertized extensively throughout the United States and England. She is a prize winner for many competitions including the Charleston International Competition. Recently, Churchya appeared as a “Rising Star” soloist with the USC Orchestra in performance of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G major.  She is a current doctoral candidate at USC in Music Performance (ABD) and associate assistant for the Southeastern Piano Festival.


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