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Finalists Announced In Cliburn Amateur Piano Competition (Update) 4

Update (June 24): Who’s the best amateur pianist? We’re one-step closer to finding out. Six finalists were named last night in The Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition.

Cliburn recitals take place all week. Performance schedule and tickets. Watch German semifinalist Matthias Fischer in his preliminary round below.

The finalist Xavier Aymonod, 40, strategy consultant (France); Matthias Fischer, 42, physician (Germany); Ken Iisaka, 47, software engineer (Japan/Canada); Gregory Knight, 53, software engineer (United States); Michael Slavin, 65, retired ophthalmologist (United States); Thomas Yu, 38, periodontist (Canada)

For the finals, the competitors will perform one movement of a concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra on Saturday at Bass Performance Hall. The performers and the Orchestra will be led by guest conductor and actor Damon Gupton.

Update (June 23): The field for the Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition narrowed from 30 pianists to 12 on Wednesday night, as the jury announced the semifinalists.

The competitors who will continue to the next round are: Xavier Aymonod (France), Deirbhile Brennan (Ireland), Gorden Cheng (United States), Jeanne Backofen Craig (United States), Matthias Fischer (Germany), Ken Iisaka (Japan/Canada), Gregory Knight (United States), Yasuo Kurimoto (Japan), Lana C. Marina (United States), Michael Slavin (United States), Sean Sutherland (St. Vincent and the Grenadines/Canada) and Thomas Yu (Canada).

Semifinalists will perform recital programs of 25 to 28 minutes in Van Cliburn Recital Hall. Finalists will be announced late Thursday evening and will perform on Saturday with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

Update (June 21): On Monday evening, the jury of the Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition announced the 30 pianists who are continuing on to the quarterfinals.

The jury selected the quarterfinalists from a pool of 68 pianists. Quarterfinalists will perform recitals of 15-18 minutes today and tomorrow in the Van Cliburn Recital Hall in Fort Worth.

The pianists still in the competition are:  Colleen Adent (United States), Xavier Aymonod (France), Saffet Bayka (Turkey), Deirbhile Brennan (Ireland), Gorden Cheng (United States), Jeanne Backofen Craig (United States), Noah DeGarmo (United States), Brianna Donaldson (United States), Brad Dunn (United States), Simon Finlow (United Kingdom/United States), Matthias Fischer (Germany), John Gutheil (United States), Ken Iisaka (Japan/Canada), Jane Gibson King (United States), Gregory Knight (United States), Tessa Knipe (South Africa/United States), Yasuo Kurimoto (Japan), Lana C. Marina (United States), Joseph Mercuri (United States), Michael Slavin (United States), Janet Sommerfeld (United States), Summer Stone (United States), Sean Sutherland (St. Vincent and the Grenadines/Canada), Madalyn Taylor (United States), J. Spencer Thompson (United States), Jasmin Tiodang (Indonesia), Clark Vann Griffith (United States), Shinji Wada (Japan), Thomas Yu (Canada) and Jorge Zamora (Mexico).

Original post (June 20): Yesterday, 68 amateur pianists from around the world gathered in Fort Worth for the opening round of the Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition. This is the seventh iteration of the quadrennial competition, which runs through Saturday June 26th, and contestants were excited to show off their chops.

The Cliburn defines an amateur as a pianist over the age of 35 who does not make a living by playing or teaching piano. The participants include software engineers, doctors and voice actors from 21 states and 18 countries, from Taiwan to Brazil.

Though the competitors are deemed “amateurs,” they play at a level occasionally indistinguishable from that of a professional. They come to Fort Worth with a wide array of musical repertoires, from Beethoven to contemporary composers. Many work full time and fit several hours of piano practice into their day early in the morning, late at night or during lunch breaks. Some practice primarily on a keyboard with headphones plugged in to avoid disturbing the neighbors. Others, like Keiko Kircher, a professor of physics in Illinois, have made their passion a part of their family routine.

“My kids are used to sleeping with piano sound,” she says. “If I play really crazy Rachmaninoff, they think it’s a lullaby!”

In the preliminary rounds, which finish tonight, competitors perform a recital set of eight to 10 minutes in the Van Cliburn Recital Hall. The jury, chaired by 2001 Cliburn gold medalist Olga Kern, will announce late this evening which pianists will continue on to Tuesday and Wednesday’s quarterfinals. 30 pianists will continue to the quarterfinals, 12 to the semifinals and six to the final round. Finalists will perform with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra on Saturday at Bass Performance Hall.

Hear an interview with Fort Worth-native and competitor Clark Vann Griffith on Art&Seek. Watch competitors perform on the Cliburn’s Youtube channel.