Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music graduate Martyna Kucinskaite ’21 M.M. recently won several top prizes in international competitions.

Kucinskaite, who majored in piano performance and received her master’s degree this past May, said that it was a struggle to keep her spirits up after live performances became impossible. But she persevered and eventually thrived in online competitions.

“Not being able to have in-person lessons, we have gotten used to recording ourselves a lot more often than before,” Kucinskaite said. “Even though relying on recordings was certainly a very different experience from what everyone expected studying performing arts, it rewarded us with a lot of insight by monitoring our own performances. It also offered our professors a different and often a more objective and detailed look into our playing.”

Kucinskaite explained that when the pandemic started, most competitions were canceled or delayed indefinitely, but eventually some transitioned into online formats. Once those competitions proved to be a good substitute to keep performers engaged with their craft while staying safe, it became a great joy for her to participate.

Kucinskaite has participated in several international competitions, including Astana-Stars, a competition in Nūr-Sūltan, Kazakhstan, which she entered twice. The first, in December 2020, was dedicated to the 180th anniversary of the birth of the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Kucinskaite presented a recording of John Corigliano’s piece “Winging It” (1st and 3rd movements) and won first place. The second time, in May 2021, her submission was Maurice Ravel’s “Alborada del Gracioso” (from Miroirs), and she again took first place.

Another competition, Virtuosos, was launched in 2016 and takes place in Saratov, Russia. It is organized by a private local music school and initially accepted submissions only from Saratov residents. However, last year the competition opened its doors to participants from all over Russia, and since October 2020, it has grown into an international event. Eligible participants are pianists as well as instrumentalists, vocalists, various chamber ensembles, jazz performers, and composers. Kucinskaite participated twice, winning third and then first prize, again performing Corigliano and Ravel compositions in February and May 2021.

“I feel grateful that my piano professor Gabrielius Alekna has always motivated and supported me. I was also fortunate to have great pieces in my program, which were eligible in these competitions and allowed me to experience the thrill of participating again,” Kucinskaite said.

You can watch Kucinskaite’s performance from an online May 2021 graduate piano recital.