UPCOMING PERFORMANCES:November 2017, Calvary Baptist Church
March 2018, Chevy Chase Womens' Club
Summer 2018, Paris, France (TBA)
Philippine-born VICTORIA BRAGIN was the first woman and, so far, the only woman to win first prize in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, a competition for pianists 35 years or older who do not earn their principal living from piano performance or piano teaching. In this first competition that she'd ever entered at the time (2002), Bragin also won the Audience Award and the awards for Best Performance of a Work from the Romantic Era and Best Performance of a Modern Work. She was also a prize winner in the Chicago Amateur Piano Competition, the International Fryderyk Chopin Competition for Amateur Pianists in Warsaw, and the International Amateur Piano Competion in Berlin.
Except for a brief appointment on the piano and music theory faculty at the School of Music of the University of South Carolina, all of Ms. Bragin's professional life has been in science education. She came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar in physical chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She taught pre-college math, chemistry, and physics both in the Philippines and in the US before becoming chemistry professor at Pasadena City College (PCC) in California. She later served a two-year stint as Program Director in the Division of Undergraduate Education of the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, managing projects involving digital libraries, curriculum development and lab improvements, and advanced technological education, among others.
Shortly after the Amateur Cliburn competition, she was invited to be the first Music Artist-in-Residence at the Huntington Museum of Art in West Virginia, a position specifically created for her by the enterprising and then new Executive Director, Margaret Mary Layne. In this capacity she performed as well as conceived, organized, and produced concerts in conjunction with Museum exhibits. These concerts helped attract increasing numbers of attendees to Museum events. Among the concerts she produced were "Women for All Seasons," a concert featuring works by women composers in conjunction with an exhibition of works by women artists; a concert of works by twentieth-century composers; another concert featuring American composers; and the first ever West Virginia Composers' Festival in which composers from the entire state were invited to present a work of their own choice.
Her principal piano teacher in the Philippines was Prof. Leoncia Conchu of the Centro Escolar University Conservatory of Music. In the United States, she has studied with well-known piano pedagogues, including Aiko Onishi, Frank Mannheimer, Lillian Steuber, John Kenneth Adams, James Bonn, John Perry, and Rosinna Lhevinne. She has performed at various venues across the United States, including in the Washington, DC area, where she gave a concert to a sold-out audience at the Hirshhorn Museum; and has also performed in Berlin, Krakow, Nice, Stuttgart, and in her native country, the Philippines. Her performances have been featured on National Public Radio's Performance Today, the Pianoforte Salon series of WFMT, Chicago's classical music stations, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting's In Touch with the Arts. Ms. Bragin was the recipient of the 2002 Herald-Dispatch Citizen Award for the Arts for her music accomplishments and her advocacy of the arts. In May 2013 she was featured in a concert sponsored by the Pianoforte Foundation and WFMT.
As a chemical educator she was director of several projects exploring the use of discovery-based and active-learning methods in the teaching of chemistry. At Pasadena City College, she championed the use of technology as a tool for visualizing difficult chemistry concepts, developed a number of programs now used at various colleges and universities here and abroad to facilitate concept comprehension by students, and was the recipient of a Presidential Excellence in Learning Award in recognition of her innovative projects. Instrumental in establishing the chemistry computer lab at Pasadena City College, she was honored in the spring of 2002 by her colleagues, who dedicated the lab to her soon after she retired.
Despite her long professional involvement in science, Bragin's interest in music has never wavered. "A balance between my musical and scientific interests as well as my family is important to me," Bragin says. After receiving a music degree at age 16 from the Centro Escolar Conservatory of Music in Manila, she obtained a baccalaureate degree in chemistry (cum laude) from the University of the Philippines. She came to the United States as a Fulbright-Smith-Mundt Scholar at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she earned a master's degree in chemistry. Bragin also received a master's degree in music education from the University of South Carolina, then started to pursue doctoral studies in piano performance at the University of Southern California.
With the birth of two children she "stopped working" and became very involved in volunteer work for a number of years, organizing cultural activities in music and the arts and presenting science demonstrations for the school system attended by her children. For this, she was honored, along with 5 other volunteers, with a "Heart of Gold" award. When she later resumed her career in science education, she maintained her piano skills by being a member of such groups as the Tuesday Musicale of Southern California and the Friday Morning Music Club in Washington, DC which presented a wealth of opportunities for her to give solo performances as well as play with chamber music groups and collaborate with singers, particularly on art songs.
When not playing the piano, Ms. Bragin and her husband can be seen roaming the halls of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC as two of its volunteer docents. She and her husband, Joseph Bragin have two grown children, Michael and Naomi and two grandchildren.