About the Leadership

Phillip Bush | Caroline Earp | Nicholas Susi | Elizabeth Churchya

Phillip Bush

Artistic Director Southeastern Piano Festival

Acclaimed as "a pianist of poetry, elegance, and power" (American Record Guide), "a pianist of exceptional, cherishable finesse" (Los Angeles Times), and "one of those rare pianists who combine structural intelligence with a hundred color gradations" (Village Voice), Phillip Bush has established a performing career over the past three decades that is noted for its remarkable versatility and eclecticism, with a repertoire extending from the 16th century to the 21st. Since the launch of his career upon winning the American Pianists Association Fellowship Award and subsequent New York recital debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1984, Mr. Bush has appeared as recitalist throughout North America as well as in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. His Carnegie Hall concerto debut with Oliver Knussen and the London Sinfonietta was hailed by the New York Times for its "impressive last-minute heroics," as he substituted for an ailing Peter Serkin on short notice in concerti by Stravinsky and Alexander Goehr. Mr. Bush has also appeared as soloist with the Osaka Century Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Houston Symphony and a number of other orchestras, in repertoire ranging from the Beethoven concerti to the American premiere of Michael Nyman’s Concerto for Harpsichord.

Phillip Bush is widely acknowledged as one of the most experienced American chamber music pianists of his generation: the Kansas City Star referred to him as "the ideal chamber musician." He has performed and recorded with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, appeared innumerable times on Brooklyn's Bargemusic series, and has performed at the Grand Canyon Music Festival, Newport Music Festival, Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, Strings in the Mountains (Colorado), Sitka Music Festival (Alaska), St. Bart's Music Festival, Music at Blair Atholl (Scotland), Cape May Music Festival, and at many other festivals. He has collaborated in recital and chamber music with concertmasters and principal players of many of the world's great orchestras, including Berlin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Metropolitan Opera, Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, and Houston. Mr. Bush has also made guest appearances with the Kronos, Miami, Parker, Jupiter, Lutoslawski, and Carpe Diem string quartets, and has performed with members of the Emerson, Guarneri, Tokyo, Orion and St. Lawrence quartets.

Over a ten-year period, Mr. Bush performed over 250 concerts in Japan with the piano quartet "Typhoon," including several sold-out performances at Osaka Symphony Hall and Tokyo's Bunkamura Orchard Hall. He recorded five CD's with the group for Epic/Sony, all of which reached the top of the Japanese classical charts. From 2007 to 2015, he served as Artistic Director of the Bennington Chamber Music Conference in Vermont, the largest (over 300 participants and 50 faculty) and oldest (founded 1946) institute for amateur chamber musicians to study with professional concert artists.

A devoted advocate for contemporary music, Phillip Bush performed worldwide for 20 years with both the Philip Glass Ensemble and Steve Reich and Musicians, in venues ranging from the Sydney Opera House to the Acropolis in Athens. He has also worked first-hand directly with many of the most significant American composers of our time, from John Adams to Charles Wuorinen. The New York Times has said "Mr. Bush may be one of the few pianists who can play both Elliott Carter’s music and Philip Glass' with equal persuasiveness." Mr. Bush's efforts on behalf of contemporary music have earned him grants and awards from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the Aaron Copland Fund, ASCAP, Chamber Music America and the National Endowment for the Arts. His discography as soloist and chamber musician has now reached over 45 recordings on labels such as Sony, Virgin Classics, Koch International, ASV, New World Records, Denon, Cedille, and many others.

Mr. Bush is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory, where he studied with Leon Fleisher. From 2000 to 2004, Mr. Bush taught piano and chamber music at the University of Michigan, and he has also served as Visiting Faculty at the University of North Carolina. Since 2012 Phillip Bush has been a member of the piano and chamber music faculty at the University of South Carolina School of Music.

Caroline Earp

Executive Director, Southeastern Piano Festival

Caroline Earp is the Executive Director of the Southeastern Piano Festival and the Director of Alumni & Donor Engagement for the USC School of Music. A native of Charleston, SC, Caroline recently moved back to Columbia after living in New York City for 13 years. While in New York she worked for 10 years at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, and she served as the Associate Administrative Director of the Vocal Arts Department at The Juilliard School for two academic years. After working briefly in the corporate world in NYC, Caroline realized her passion lies in fundraising for non-profits and academic institutions. She then decided to make the move back to South Carolina and is thrilled to be working at the USC School of Music and being back in her home state. Caroline received her Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Columbia College, where she studied voice with Lanny Palmer and piano with Robyn Gibson.

Nicholas Susi

Associate Artistic Director, Southeastern Piano Festival

Described in The WholeNote as “an innovative musician and aggressive thinker with a gift for keyboard brilliance,” Dr. Nicholas Susi enjoys a multifaceted career living out his deep love of music. He recognizes that Classical music has been a transformative force in his life, and seeks to share its power with others through his teaching and performing.

As a teenager, Nicholas experienced a musical turning point upon discovering the music of Franz Liszt. Thrilled by the composer’s virtuoso music and inspirational biography, he became a lifelong super-fan of all things Liszt. Performances and projects centering around the Hungarian composer have been a recurring theme throughout Dr. Susi’s career. He has appeared as soloist in the concerti of Liszt with the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia of Greater Kansas City, Taneycomo Festival Orchestra and Webster Symphony Orchestra, and he celebrated the composer’s bicentennial in 2011 with a series of performances of the complete Douze études d’exécution transcendante. In 2014, Susi advanced to the semifinals of the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition (Utrecht, The Netherlands) as one of two Americans selected worldwide to participate in this prestigious competition. Most recently, he made his debut as a published author in the 2020 edition of The Journal of the American Liszt Society; in his article, Susi offers an interdisciplinary reading of Liszt’s Legend no. 1 by intersecting theoretical analysis with Catholic iconography.

Dr. Susi’s research has been awarded grants from such organizations as the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), Mu Phi Epsilon Foundation, and Legacy Foundation for the Arts. These and other grants enabled him to travel, study and perform music across Europe; the experiences of researching Beethoven in Bonn, Debussy in Paris and Mozart in Vienna have been central to his development as a musician and to his cosmopolitan understanding of musical styles. Other noteworthy appearances abroad include recitals at the Cité universitaire de Paris, two all-Liszt concerts for the Princess von Hohenzollern at her castle in Namedy, Germany, and concerto solos with the Wiener Residenz Orchester and Symphonieorchester der Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln.

Stateside, Dr. Susi’s career took off upon winning the 2015 National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) Young Artist Competition. Winners of this competition receive two years of management, which resulted in performances, masterclasses, and lectures across the country. At the same time, Susi recorded and released his debut album, Scarlatti Now, to critical acclaim; in addition to international radio airplay, the disc was featured on the prestigious Critics’ Choice list (2017) of American Record Guide and was chosen as a 1st place winner of The American Prize in 2018.

Dr. Susi joined the University of South Carolina School of Music as Assistant Professor of Piano in 2022. He previously taught piano and music theory at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. He completed his doctorate at the University of Michigan, with previous studies at the University of Kansas and at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln as a two-time DAAD grantee. Primary teachers include Zena Ilyashov, Jack Winerock, Nina Tichman and Arthur Greene.

Elizabeth Churchya

Manager of Operations, Southeastern Piano Festival

Pianist Elizabeth Churchya is a charismatic and sensitive performer who has concertized extensively throughout the United States and England. She is a prize winner for many competitions including the Charleston International Competition. Recently, Elizabeth appeared as a “Rising Star” soloist with the UofSC Orchestra in performance of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G major. She had the privilege of performing in masterclasses for renowned pianists including Edmund Battersby, Dmitri Rachmanov, Nelita True, and many others. Her primary teachers include Joseph Rackers, Jeffrey Brown, Phillip Bush, and Lelia Sadlier. Elizabeth is a current doctoral candidate at UofSC in Music Performance (ABD).

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