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How a Pianist Makes a Good Impression

February 05th 2013

CIPC Artistic Director Paul Schenly and Executive Director Pierre van der Westhuizen have just finished reviewing the applications and performance DVDs submitted for the 2013 Competition.  Based on this experience, Pierre offers young pianists advice on how to make the best impression.

This week, 110 very talented pianists received notification that they advanced to the second stage of the application process for the 2013 Cleveland International Piano Competition.  And while all of the candidates who applied were outstanding, the 110 who advanced all shared common qualities.  Their playing, their demeanor, their professionalism – all of these things – combined to allow them to rise to the top.

The most important thing an applicant must know is that the Cleveland International Piano Competition is not just looking for the best pianist – it is looking for the best pianist who also is poised and ready for a career.  How does one become that pianist?  Following are my thoughts, for consideration by anyone who may be interested.

A pianist’s career begins the day he enters conservatory.  Friends, teachers, and colleagues are the foundation of the network that will be vitally important for decades to come.  This is how a pianist connects with new teachers, finds engagements, secures an agent, and builds a career.  It must be built and carefully nurtured over a lifetime.

Even as a young student, a pianist should take the time to play as many engagements as possible.  This helps build a resume and a network, while honing performance skills and the ability to engage an audience.

A website is very helpful.  Photos, a bio, repertoire, video, and performance highlights will instantly create a professional image.

Performance DVDs submitted with applications should present the pianist in the best possible way.  Most applicants who advanced to stage two of the CIPC submitted a professionally produced video (either from a performance or in a studio) and were in concert dress.

Lastly, if the goal is to be accepted into larger competitions such as CIPC, Cliburn, Honens, etc., pianists should gain experience by starting out with the smaller events.  This will build the resume and demonstrate to review committees that the pianist has what it takes to compete in the high-stress environment of a major competition.

Applying for a major international piano competition is somewhat like seeking a new job: the successful candidate will have spent years getting an education, gaining experience and building a network.  When it comes time for the interview, he or she will have a polished resume and dressed appropriately.  When it comes down to it, a piano competition is no different.  It is all about impressing the review committee and presenting oneself as a complete performer, ready for the job.  A smart pianist will make sure to take advantage of every opportunity to make a good impression.

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