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Part One: The Invitation to the Cliburn Amateur Competition

Part One: The Invitation to the Cliburn Amateur Competition

March 22, 2016

Dear Mrs. Sommerfeld,

It is my great pleasure to invite you to the Seventh Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition, June 19 to 25. The quality of this year’s applications, of which we received 159, was exceptionally strong, and we are delighted to inform you that you have been selected to participate as a competitor this June!

Within the next few weeks, you will receive additional details on performance and rehearsal schedules, travel and accommodations, performance opportunities, symposia, and social events planned during the competition week. Once again, please accept our warmest congratulations. We look forward to seeing you in Fort Worth.

With all best wishes,
Jacques Marquis
President and CEO, The Van Cliburn Foundation

Janet listening to the audio playback of a take of her Ravel Jeux d'Eau.

It began with an application. Even putting together the videos to apply to the Cliburn Amateur is a daunting process. This year 159 people applied and they accepted less than half of them. The videos had to be good.

In an example of the kind of love and support often seen among my adult students, Bob offered the use of his gorgeous Steinway B for the recording and took care of all the technology involved. Janet played and I offered moral support and a quick bit of repertoire advice. (Ditch the Scarlatti, go with the Prokofiev.)

I had competed in the Van Cliburn Competition (for Professionals) many years ago. (1985, if you must know. Doesn't that sound like the Stone Age?) I know it's a well-oiled machine and all the facets of it are beautifully run.

Janet and I met when we were both students at the University of Southern California. She was studying with James Bonn, a teacher who usually only taught piano majors. Her father didn't want her to major in Music and instead encouraged her to study Journalism. After a career that included being a television news reporter and editing Star Trek Voyager promotions, she finally returned to playing the piano. It had been twenty-five years.

Through the magic of Facebook we reconnected. Though she lives in Los Angeles and I live in San Francisco, she began flying up to study with me. When I realized how beautifully she was playing, I encouraged her to submit an application to the Cliburn Amateur Competition. (I had judged the competition in 2002 and was aware of the level of playing.)

I'll be writing more as the competition draws closer, and then during the competition itself. I'm looking forward to telling some behind-the-scenes stories as I'll be neither competitor nor juror this time. 


Here are Janet's audition videos to give you an idea of the level of playing in this "Amateur" competition. Enjoy!

Part Two: The Program for the Cliburn Amateur Competition

Part Two: The Program for the Cliburn Amateur Competition

Throw Out Your Ruler

Throw Out Your Ruler