“ A brilliant combination of classicism and ragtime language. That is, on the one hand, this piece is written in the best understanding of the classics, on the other hand, there is a bright syncopation that emphasizes the melody in the upper voice (yes, there is a clear counterpoint here, and I am delighted!)” - Judge comment from the 2022 Fidelio Composition Competition, on "O'Carolan's Dream," 3rd prize winner
“For me, this is obviously number one. Perfect, bright, technical, provocative, with excellent dynamics in development. Absolutely incredible counterpoint work - and that's using just the right hand! The highest level of professionalism that I personally will never achieve.” - Judge comment from the 2022 Fidelio Composition Competition, on "Mary's Pastoral" for the Right Hand Alone, 4th place
A Chance Meeting and a Chamber Symphony
In 2016 Sam subbed as an accompanist to Yo-Yo Ma and Renee Fleming at the Kennedy Center. After hearing Sam play one of his own compositions in their rehearsal, Ma promptly recommended him to Michael Tilson Thomas at the San Francisco Symphony for a string quartet commission on Kazakh folk themes by late dombra player Karshyga Akhmedyarov, whose daughter Raushan plays in the symphony. After the premiere of the resulting “Sketches from Kazakhstan,” the Symphony again commissioned him to turn it into a chamber symphony for their SoundBox concert series in December 2017. Baltimore Chamber Orchestra gave the East Coast premiere in February 2022.
“Great! I was amazed! Besides that it is wonderfully written composition, the possibility to perform such etude with only one hand seemed to me until now quite impossible. But the proof was given to me. And thus, all I can say is: I take my hat off to you Sir 'Liszt of 21th century' !” - Judge comment from the 2019 Fidelio Composition Competition, on Etude "Waterfall" for the Left Hand Alone, 2nd prize winner
Awards and Honors
Sam is the only five-time prizewinner in the history of the Fidelio Composition Competition for piano, the competition where the participants from more than 30 countries are the judges. He won the 2021 and 2022 World Championship Old-Time Piano "New Rag" Competitions with Lighthouse Rag and Angels' Watch Rag-Waltz. Sam’s 2017 solo album “Dizzy Days” made W. Royal Stokes’ notable jazz releases that year, was featured on the cover of the Syncopated Times, and No Depression called it “dazzling in its knife-sharp precision and riveting craftsmanship.” Sam is the recipient of multiple Levine faculty grants, an Emergent Seed grant, commissions from the San Francisco Symphony and Palisades Virtuosi. He won the 2014 Wonderlic Piano Competition, the 2017 and 2018 Misbin Memorial Chamber Music Competitions, and Honorable Mention at the 2013 Heida Hermanns International Competition, in all cases playing his own original compositions. He has been featured on WETA's "Front Row Washington" four times, and appeared on other radio stations across the country with his performances of Chopin, Bach, and his own compositions.