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Virtuosos tickle ivory at biennial piano gala

Virtuosos tickle ivory at biennial piano gala

Vivian León

The halls of Webster and Taylor buildings on the campus of Missouri Southern State University will be filled with beautiful piano music during the week of April 19 -24. Thirty-seven pianists from around the globe will be in Joplin to participate in the 10th Missouri Southern International Piano Competition. The caliber of talent that will converge on our campus will take our breath away.

What is the purpose of having such an event on our campus? The Competition began as a project in the music department. The goal was to make Southern the center of cultural activities in the region and bring world caliber performances to our citizens. The plan was excellent, but the budget was tight. As we faced the extinction of such a worthy project, we asked the community for help. The response was remarkable. With enthusiastic support from the community, the piano competition became a nonprofit organization and is now funded totally by contributions. It continues to grow in quality and reputation on a national and international level. This year applications came from 25 countries.

In a few days, we will meet the tremendously talented pianists selected from 15 countries. Many of them do not speak English, and many have never been to the United States, but you can be sure that they can play the piano beautifully. At 1 p.m. Tuesday, American pianist Alan Chow will entertain more than 400 school children in Webster Hall auditorium. Mr. Chow is a highly acclaimed pianist who has performed in the most prestigious music halls across the United States and overseas. We are especially proud because he was also the very first grand prize winner of the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition in 1987. On Tuesday evening, Alan Chow will give an Opening Recital for the public at 8 p.m. in Taylor Performing Arts Center.

A Master Class at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday will feature five regional Honors Audition winners who will have the opportunity to perform for and receive a public lesson from one of the five international judges, who are world-renowned pianists from Bolivia, England, Japan, Russia and the United States. To be coached by a pianist of such stature is a rare opportunity indeed for our local piano students.

After the Competition rounds on Wednesday through Saturday, the week will culminate with the Gala Winners Concert at 8 p.m. Saturday. The winners will receive their awards that total more than $30,000 and a Carnegie Recital Hall debut in New York City for the grand prize winner. Then the winners will perform their favorite selections for the audience. It will be a grand evening.

Southern and the Southwest Missouri community should be very proud to have this cultural event in our midst. There is no such event in any of the big cities in the Midwest – not in St. Louis, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Tulsa or Springfield. The continuous cooperation between the area communities and Southern has helped make the Competition a product of distinction, one that is of high quality, providing outstanding cultural and educational opportunities for our students and great enjoyment for our citizens. It brings attention to our University, and it serves the international mission of Southern very well.

Come and hear great music on our campus on April 20 to 24. During the competition rounds, each competitor usually performs a short program of 25-30 minutes. Come between classes and catch a performance or two. You will see amazing talent and hear unbelievable music.

All the performances are offered to the students, faculty and staff of MSSU at no charge.

To be admitted to the Opening Concert and Gala Concert, faculty and staff may request complimentary tickets at the MSIPC office and students can obtain free passes at the door. Call 625-9755 or e-mail [email protected] for information.