News / USA

Amateur Pianists Compete in Van Cliburn Contest

Christopher Shih, a physician from Maryland, competes in the semi-final round of the sixth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs hosted by the Van Cliburn Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas, May 28, 2011.
Christopher Shih, a physician from Maryland, competes in the semi-final round of the sixth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs hosted by the Van Cliburn Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas, May 28, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Bill Zeeble

Two doctors and a retired database programmer took top honors at the 6th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in Fort Worth, Texas. The competition is hosted by the Van Cliburn Foundation, named after the American pianist who was a child prodigy. This is not the "big" Cliburn contest for young pianists hoping to launch international careers. These amateurs have jobs, but don't play or teach piano for a living. The competition celebrates the making of music as a vital part of daily life.

Christopher Shih's performance of Brahms's "Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel" likely sealed his win in this international contest for amateurs. He received standing ovations from the crowd of piano lovers gathered at Texas Christian University.  

Fourteen years ago, Shih journeyed here for the Cliburn competition for young pianists, but he didn't get far. He says he entered that one for the experience, taking a few weeks off from medical school.

Today, Shih is a gastroenterologist and this past week, he returned to Texas. And he won. 

"The goal is to come and to try to play as best as I possibly can, to try to do the music justice, to partake in the social experience with everyone here and the really talented colleagues," Shih explained.  "So of course the winning is nice, because it's an amateur competition, because we don't need it to put food on the table."

Clark Griffith came in second.  He says the contest offers the opportunity for high-level amateurs to play before a sizable audience.

"I was glad to spend time with this magnificent piano," said Griffith.  "The results are just lots of candy and gravy and fun."

Griffith placed third in 2007, the last time the Cliburn Foundation held this amateur event. This time, he also won for best Baroque era performance, playing several of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

For many of the seventy competitors, the contest is inspiring because their musical muscles had atrophied.

Blame the day job and responsibilities caring for families and children. But their love of piano persists.

Third-place winner Dr. Barry Coutinho is originally from India. He says the contest got him practicing piano again.  

"At this level, the highest thing I did was the BBC Young Musician of the Year and that was 30 years ago," recalled Coutinho.  "[I did] nothing at this level since then.  The thrill is so incredible, playing to an appreciative audience like this on an incredible piano, in an auditorium like this, it's worth it."  

That was the case even for those who did not reach the finals.

Jorge Zamora, from Mexico, made it to the semi-finals. He graduated from the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music, returned to Mexico, but couldn't find a job in music.

With his other degree, in electronics, he found work in telecommunications. He says his mother encouraged him to stay with the piano and would be proud he's here.

"I get emotional because she died 20 years ago, especially because of her support on me making music, was really special. And my father too, who also died 5 years ago. So getting this far in this competition is very meaningful," said Zamora.

Zamora came to the competition from Mexico City with his wife. They're expecting their first child. He says he intends to keep music in the family.

Top prize winner Christopher Shih won $2,000 and $250 for best romantic performance.

He says he'll leave the piano for a while, to spend more time with his wife and 3 daughters.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid