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Amateur Piano Competitions, a personal experience

There are numerous international piano amateur competitions these days, from the prestigious Van Cliburn Amateur Competition in the USA to the International Competition for Outstanding Piano Amateurs in France. The choice is yours.

But are such competitions a good way for outstanding piano amateurs to get access to an audience and cultivate a passion for piano performance?

Here's my experience of being a competitor at the first PianoLink International Amateur Competition.

When I learnt that PianoLink Italy was launching the first international piano competition in association with Yamaha Italy, Bosendorfer, Pianist Magazine and Cremona Musica I was soon very excited. Since lockdown early in March, I have started to practice piano more regularly, sometimes playing a few hours a day like I used to do when I was a student at the Conservatory of Music.

When my neighbours kept messaging me not to stop playing and to even play more loudly, I released how powerful music can be. So, without any indecision, I applied to the competition with the excitement of becoming part of a new community of piano lovers.

“Please don't stop playing. It makes us feel better and more relaxed ... Just play more loudly'

For the preliminary round (Category B Graduates) I submitted my video recording of two Scarlatti sonatas (K9 and K159) and Claire de Lune by Debussy - you can see the video below.

My entry to PianoLink Amateurs Piano Competition

Before submitting I practiced many times on my upright piano at home. I then rented a music room in one of London's best piano shops for an hour and produced the video you see above. The piano I recorded on was a new C. Bechstein grand piano. The keyboard was a bit hard compared to my upright but I believe I somehow managed to play well. And because I had to travel the next day and did not have a piano where I was going to, I decided that was my competition entry - although not perfect by any means.

Later in August Piano Link published all video entries and I was surprised by the high level of the competitors from 18 different countries. I told myself 'oh well! maybe there will be a small chance I will be in the final and play on stage'. Unfortunately there was no miracle and with a bit of disappointment I accepted the outcome.

What I found really an enriching experience was the possibility to showcase my 'talent' to a wider audience of classical piano lovers, connecting more closely with friends and family during the pandemic, commenting on other competitors' performances and receive direct feedback from world class pianists and members of the jury like Alexander Romanovsky, Alberto Nose', Jeffrey Swan, Eric Schoones and Bruno Monsaingeon, people I admire very much for what they do.

Their feedback has been amazing in identifying areas of strength as well as areas for improvements for those pieces. Superstar pianists that usually look distant and living in another world are all of sudden closer than ever to you and a great motivation to continue this beautiful musical journey that is helping us during very difficult times.

I believe that amateur competitions can re-ignate the passion and the motivation to play at a high level and perhaps to get back on a stage if you have not done that for a while. So I definitely look forward to new competitions and to knowing more piano lovers around the world.

What's your view on amateur piano competitions? Are they a growing trend and will they help classical piano to become more popular? Please leave your comments below.

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