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Hilton Head International Piano Competition

I love attending the wonderful concerts performed by the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra. A real treat for me, and a highlight each year, is the Hilton Head International Piano Competition showcasing twenty young artists from every corner of the globe.

I was fortunate to be present this year to watch these talented musicians play pieces by Chopin, Beethoven, Ravel, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Britten and Messiaen. Hearing and watching these performers was truly dynamic and magical! If you’re in town this week treat yourself to a session any day until the final performance with the Orchestra on Monday, March 17th. If not, be sure to attend this event next year. These are not-to-be-missed performances.

The event, which is one of the leading international piano competitions in the United States, holds a competition each year; an adult competition for pianists 18 – 30 years of age in the even numbered years, and a young artist competition for pianists 13 – 17 years of age during the odd-numbered years. The competition draws its applicants and audience from countries around the world.

This is the competition’s 19th year, and runs through March 17.  Twenty of the world’s best pianists, ages 18 – 30, are competing in four exciting rounds for $33,000 in cash prizes. Additionally, the First Prize winner receives a return engagement as soloist with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, a recital at Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall during the 2014-15 season, and other performance opportunities. The prestigious 2014 juries comprise ten internationally acclaimed pianists from eight different countries.

While on Hilton Head Island, competitors stay in the homes of host families, who provide lodging, meals, transportation, and access to a competition quality grand piano for practice.  More than 200 volunteers staff all competition events.  Island residents also host the judges for dinners in their homes during the week of Competition, and others offer them use of their grand pianos for personal practice.

Many of the twenty competitors serve as musical ambassadors to our local schools, performing at local schools and talking with students about life in their home country.  Several thousand students in our area have benefited from, and are inspired by, this terrific outreach program. The competition also provides the opportunity for local students to attend the competition, many of whom have never before been exposed to a live performance.

Special events during the week, which are open to the public, include Master Classes given by six of the judges to six competitors who are not advancing to the semifinals, and there’s also a special lecture and recital by the 2014 Jury Chairman.

In 2015 the Hilton Head International Piano Competition for Young Artists will be on March 9th -14th, when twenty pianists ages 13-17 will compete in three rounds for $11,500 in cash prizes.  The First Prize winner will also be awarded a Summer Music School Scholarship in 2015 or 2016 valued at up to $5,000, a return performance with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, and other performance engagements.

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