Young Pianist Sues Over Chopin Incident

Claims program big shut keyboard cover on hands at Carnegie Hall

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Young Pianist Sues Over Chopin Incident

JULY 26--A teenage pianist is suing a New Jersey music teacher for allegedly shutting a piano keyboard cover on his fingers as he played a Chopin composition during a Carnegie Hall recital last month. According to a Superior Court lawsuit filed earlier this month in Cumberland County, Bryan O'Lone, 16, claims that he was confronted onstage by Yelena Ivanov during a June 12 recital sponsored by the Young Pianist Competition of New Jersey (YPCNJ), which the 62-year-old Ivanov founded. O'Lone (pictured at right) contends that while he had practiced the Chopin piece in advance of the event, when he arrived at the 268-seat Weill Recital Hall he discovered that the program indicated he would instead be performing Beethoven's 'Pathetique,' a piece O'Lone was not prepared to play. The boy reported the mixup to YPCNJ Executive Director Lana Ivanov, Yelena's daughter, who told him that he 'would have to play the [Beethoven] piece...whether he had practiced it or not,' according to the lawsuit, a copy of which you'll find below. But after a judge reportedly told him that, 'One would think that one could play what one wants when one sits down at the piano,' O'Lone 'concluded that he was given permission' to do the Chopin piece. However, as he began playing Chopin's Scherzo No. 2, Yelena Ivanov (pictured at left) appeared onstage and 'physically accosted Bryan and then closed the piano key cover on his fingers,' announcing to the audience that the tuxedo-clad teenager would not be allowed to continue performing. O'Lone, who did not budge from the Weill stage, continued playing after Ivanov walked off, finishing the performance to a 'terrific ovation from a packed house.' In the audience, O'Lone's family members were stunned, crying, and 'embarrassed and publicly humiliated' by Ivanov's attempt to oust the teenager, who, in two preliminary competitions, bested hundreds of other young pianists for the Carnegie Hall gig. Since O'Lone was the recital's 'only black performer and his family was the only black family in the audience,' other attendees 'turned to them while Ivanov was trying to remove Bryan from the stage.' Along with unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, O'Lone's lawsuit seeks an apology from the Ivanovs and the awarding of a $350 prize he won during the preliminary competition. He also wants a certificate that was awarded to other pianists performing at Carnegie Hall. Ivanov did not respond to TSG messages left at her New Jersey home. (10 pages)

Comments (1)

Although this was over five years ago, I have to say this incident does not surprise me at all. As a student of Ivanov's for many, many years, I can vouch that we were all treated to frequent verbal and occasional physical abuse. If only one of us had had the balls to step up and do what O'Lone did. I hope he was successful.