Missouri Southern International Piano Competition

Brian Robin, freshman international business major, and Josh Buckner, junior undecided major, contribute to the MSIPC mass mailing.

Brian Robin, freshman international business major, and Josh Buckner, junior undecided major, contribute to the MSIPC mass mailing.

Preparation for the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition is a team effort, with contributions from different parts of the campus and community.

Campus departments, students, volunteers and the community all contribute to the program. When Vivian León, director of the MSIPC, first became involved in 1989, she said she knew its potential.

“We worked very hard and by 1993, we had enough support to become nonprofit,” she said. “Missouri Southern has been wonderful to us in letting us use facilities and the people here are so wonderful. They are not obligated to help us. They voluntarily give us their time, support and skills. It has just been wonderful to be here; it has been a wonderful collaboration.”

Recently, the last mass mailing was completed with few exceptions. Total, there are 15,000 applications sent to every known music school in the world. Helpers with this process included student workers, fraternity members and volunteers.

“We are an assembly line; we are a team,” said Julie Spencer, sophomore English major. “I have a good time in here. You have to love music to work in here and a love for the piano definitely helps.”

Another student employee, Catherine Ramoly, freshman criminal justice major, said this work lets her see a different side of the campus.

“It allows me to do something different,” she said. “I came in the first day and they had me on mailing lists. I didn’t have much of a reaction; it was work. And when I have something to do, I just get it done. It’s really not a bad job at all, you’re never bored.”

Sharon Lambert, volunteer for the MSIPC Planning Committee, considers herself the “new kid on the block,” but is keeping herself involved.

“I have been busy,” she said. “The whole thing is just an enormous undertaking.”

Elizabeth Kemm, another volunteer and Southern alumna, has contributed to 12 of 20 MSIPC competitions.

“(León) just keeps getting better and better ideas,” she said. “This is a remarkable event. And to think we hold it here in Joplin.”

Lambert agrees the program is successful due to León’s dedication.

“Mrs. León has been the driving force behind this,” Lambert said. “She has created this. She has a real flare for the way things are done.”

Kemm said she is impressed with the tiniest details León remembers like making sure the judges have sharpened pencils. On the other hand, León said the helpers do not go unnoticed.

“They are just wonderful,” she said.

Two members of Sigma Pi, Brian Robin, freshman international business major, and Josh Buckner, junior undecided major, helped with the mailing process. They said this contribution was something special they could do for the campus.

“It’s our way of giving back to the campus and the community,” Robin said. “(The volunteers) are very nice ladies and Mrs. León is fantastic.”

Buckner said he was impressed with the competition and the “extraordinary talent” of the competitors.

“It’s cool,” Buckner said. “Classical music is dying, but I think this (competition) will slow down that death. I think it’s great for the school. I don’t know of any other schools around here that can brag about a piano competition.”

After the two-week mass mailing, the next step for the program is updating the Web site, applications and advertising. Basically, the preparations for the next MSIPC begin immediately after the competition.

León said Rod Surber, director of public information, has helped tremendously.

“They just help us when we ask, that’s something you cannot buy; they are a part of this,” she said.

The method of choosing the contestants is long, but carefully implemented. When the 150 applicants submit their 30-minute video or DVD of the pre-chosen music selections, a group of pianists listen to every one, discuss and choose. Kemm was once a member of the group that had to choose the applicants.

“Sometimes it’s very difficult,” she said. “You want to make sure you’re giving them a fair chance. The caliber has risen so much since we first started this competition. It’s so hard.”

After the applicants are chosen from this process, 20 seniors and 15 juniors move on to the semi-finals, where they are heard live in front of judges. These competitors are hosted by local families.

“The most wonderful thing about this project is that we are bringing community people to Southern, and Southern working with community people,” León said.

The next step is fund raising, which León said occurs “24-7.”

The significant fund raising event in September, Music, Menus, Masterpieces will encompass professional designer tables, auctions, recipes and music. There will be live music and demonstrations of the products.

“We have to raise money to give it away,” León said.