Host families get new additions

Dr. Pedro Talevera-Ibarra, professor of foreign languages, meets his new house guest, Viktor Valkov, at the MSIPC orientation and pizza party April 20. Talavera hosted 2006 MSIPC grand prize winner Tatiana Tessman in 2006.

T.R. Hanrahan

Dr. Pedro Talevera-Ibarra, professor of foreign languages, meets his new house guest, Viktor Valkov, at the MSIPC orientation and pizza party April 20. Talavera hosted 2006 MSIPC grand prize winner Tatiana Tessman in 2006.

Rita Forbes

Thirty-one renowned pianists from around the globe will experience southwest Missouri hospitality this week.

Host families in Joplin, Carthage, Neosho, Carl Junction, and Oronogo are welcoming competitors for the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition into their homes. They will provide transportation, food, and a place to sleep and practice. But Polly Scoutaris, host family coordinator, said being a host family also involves more than meeting physical needs.

“[It includes] being their cheering section in the competition and providing comfort if they don’t make it to the finals,” she said.

Robbi Triplett and her husband Park are hosting Yu-Chi Tai, a 27-year-old pianist from Taiwan. The Triplett family has four children, ranging from three to 15 years old.

The entire family is eager to listen in on Tai’s practice sessions, after a brand-new grand piano was delivered to their home last week.

“I am looking forward to hearing her fill this house with music,” Triplett said.

The Triplett children have taken piano lessons in the past.

“Hopefully having [Tai] here will be a big impetus to getting that started again,” Triplett said. “Seeing what’s possible. When you’re little and you’re just plunking around, it doesn’t seem like you can accomplish much.”

Three-year-old Levi Triplett seemed to consider Tai part of the family even before she arrived.

“He gets the pronouns mixed up,” his mother explained. Instead of “Yu-Chi,” he calls her “My Chi.”

Scoutaris said host families like the Tripletts have a unique opportunity to represent their community.

“They are offering Joplin’s hospitality,” she said. “The competitors have a really positive feeling about the community, because of the kindness shown them by the families. People from all over the world have established an opinion about Joplin because of that kindness.”

Elizabeth Kemm, MSIPC committee member, said the host families also benefit.

“They have wonderful conversation and wonderful music,” she said. “Temporarily, they just kind of change their whole lifestyle.”

Dr. Pedro Talavera-Ibarra, professor of foreign languages, hosted Tatiana Tessman during the 2006 competition.

“It was a wonderful experience,” he said. “We became very much involved in the process of the competition. We suffered along with her, and we were able to bask in her glory when she won.”

Talavera’s piano is newly tuned and waiting for a new competitor, Viktor Valkov from Bulgaria, this year.

“It’s something that I would recommend everybody to do,” Talavera said. “It’s also forcing you to make some time for listening to piano music, which is something you might need in your life.”