Jasmine Steadman has been guiding her students toward skyrocketing trajectories for more than 15 years

Even though Jasmine Steadman has coached more young pianists to winning awards than any other instructor in Colorado, she considers herself the lucky one.

For more than 15 years, winners of the prestigious Yamaha Piano Competition (formerly Schmitt Piano) have gotten the opportunity to perform with the National Repertory Orchestra. The experience has become a pivotal childhood experience for all of them.  Since 2008, a large majority have something else in common – their instructor.

Jasmine Steadman grew up in China, learning music from a young age. She was on faculty at the Guangxi Arts Institute for 10 years before moving to Colorado and finishing her master’s at CU Boulder. Since then, she has been the common denominator for more competition winners than she can keep track of. This summer, three of her champions will again perform with the NRO.

“Seeing they can be mature musicians while making music live, that’s the most rewarding part for me,” says Steadman, who has become one of Denver’s most sought-after piano instructors. “Winning the competition is a great achievement. Seeing them work hard and showing how strong they can be is a gift. I am a lucky teacher.”

One might argue that her students are the lucky ones.

Madison Suh returns to Breckenridge

Madison Suh began taking lessons from Steadman when she was 4. Now 17, she has her pick of full scholarships from numerous universities and will perform with the NRO for the fourth time, having won every category of the Yamaha Piano Competition.

Steadman says she feels like a second mother to Suh, whose focus on learning was evident long before her feet touched the floor.

“When I started with her, the thing that stood out was her concentration. It was extremely good for a 4-year-old,” Steadman recalls. “We did two lessons a week, one focused on technique, one focused on repertoire. I always tried to make the class fun. She was always a little sponge.”

Suh’s first appearance with the NRO was at age 8, when she performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto. At age 9, she played Kabalevsky. Two years ago, she won the Chamber music category and played the Mendelssohn Trio. Steadman watched her perform a solo concert at the Denver Symphony Center to a packed crowd of 200 this April. This summer, having won the Advanced Group Category, Suh performs with the NRO again, performing Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat during the free Chamber Concert at 6 p.m. on July 17 at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Another of Steadman’s long-time students, Raditya Muljadi, began studying with Steadman at the age of 8. Now in ninth grade and already a scholar at the prestigious Lang Lang International Music Foundation, Muljadi has already performed at Carnegie Hall twice and will land in Breckenridge to perform with the NRO for the third time, presenting Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 at the July 17 free Chamber Concert.

The reward of performing

“The NRO is such a high-quality organization. Everybody is so welcoming. For young kids, their first time playing with the orchestra, they’re extremely nervous with butterflies in their stomachs. The NRO makes it so easy to be themselves. After the first rehearsal, they feel so much better, so confident on stage. They make such great impact on their lives, especially for hardworking students like Madison. She said every time she had those up and downs, those big stage performances with the orchestra made her want to work harder for the next opportunity.”

Another competition winner, 7-year-old Natalie Ouyang, will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 19 during the NRO’s Free Family and Kids Concert at 10:30 a.m. on June 26 at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Having started with Steadman at age 4, she was winning first place at piano contests by age 5.

Especially with students this young, Steadman recognizes the responsibility of igniting an inner spark while also fostering a sense of life balance, so the spark doesn’t burn out.

“At a certain age, I don’t think anybody who studies an instrument wants to put in those hours,” she says. “I try to find what is engaging for students to make this work. I want the student to learn how to find the problem in the practice and how to solve the problem, to taste that successful feeling when they achieve something. Then they feel rewarded. For that young age, they know they win something because they did it right. I see so many kids with such big talent and in the end, they quit. It’s a balance. They need to put in the hard work, but at the same time, they need to taste the reward.”

Peer support

Not all of Steadman’s students find rewards in winning competitions or performing on stage. Thus, it is up to the teacher to customize her approach to ensure she brings out the potential of each individual. Luckily, she is always able to find common ground in their love for music.

“Each student’s personality is different,” she says. “To keep them interested, I find more than just the boring technical things. I find the engaging repertoire. They are so in love with that music, they get sucked into it.”

Steadman currently has 22 students, dedicating seven to eight hours to her lessons every day, while also providing guidance to her twin daughters in middle school, both of whom are also musicians – one plays violin, the other flute and piano. She also dedicates every Friday night to a free studio class for her students in which each has an opportunity to share newly learned music.

“It’s a great environment for both the younger and older students,” Steadman says. “They need that community, giving feedback to each other. It’s a great thing. They all look forward to Friday night.”

Don’t miss Steadman’s students perform in Breckenridge this summer on June 26 and July 17.

Lead photo by Dale Steadman.