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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Official Pleased With Ebola Containment Measure

Official says three-day sensitization effort will help reduce infection rate of Ebola disease nationwide More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid