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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs