Director of Operations Crystal Carlson Honored by Musical America

Crystal Carlson, Director of Operations, is among 30 individuals nationwide named as Musical America magazine’s 2019 Professionals of the Year. This honor recognizes “the often behind-the-scenes individuals who keep the performing arts alive and well and relevant.” With 14,000 performing arts organizations and 6,000 artists in more than 95 countries, Musical America is regarded as the definitive source for international performing arts contact information. Cleveland is one of only a handful of cities with more than one honoree–Johnnia Stigall, Manager of Pre-college and Pathway Programs at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM), was also named. Both women have ties to CIM.

Carlson grew up in Caldwell, Idaho, and became a singer by accident in a very literal sense—at age 11, she was in a car accident with her father. As she recollects, “I was injured enough that I had to give up playing soccer and dancing, which were my two passions at the time. My dad saw that. One day he said to me ‘I’ve heard you sing in the shower and you’re not that bad. Why don’t we look into voice lessons?’” Her first voice teacher was immediately impressed with Carlson’s natural ability. A reaction that “delighted” the 11-year-old. She adds, “I sang at a senior living center almost the next day, and their reaction gave me the bug.”

At age 14, she saw a live production of Don Giovanni. “That’s when I turned to opera,” she says. “That’s when I started being more serious about classical music.” She majored in Voice at Capital University in Columbus and, at the suggestion of her undergraduate voice teacher, came to Cleveland in 2007 to study at CIM. After earning a Professional Studies certificate in Vocal Performance from CIM, she had dreams of being a performer but notes “I knew I still wanted to be within the music industry, even if I wasn’t performing. I saw this job. Even though it was supposed to be temporary, I wanted to see what it was like to work behind the scenes. It turned out that I absolutely loved it. I wasn’t supposed to be here at the 2011 competition, but because of the changes and the work I had done, I was asked to stay. I’ve stayed and kept working and gaining more responsibilities.”

Carlson has become an enthusiastic Clevelander and sees this honor in the larger context of the city’s reputation as a classical music mecca. When she moved here, she had been told it had a strong arts community and found this to be true. “There really was a sort of renaissance when I got here in 2007. The city ended up feeling like home, which I didn’t expect. There are so many concerts everywhere, from the halls to churches to bars, there’s so much to take in. It’s incredible. I used to live in the Coventry neighborhood, and it was shocking that I could walk to three different performances from my home. Where I grew up, you’d have to drive 45 or 60 minutes just to get to one performance. I got all of my cultural experiences from PBS,” she quips.

The behind-the-scenes nature of her work as Director of Operations at CIPC makes the honor from Musical America that much sweeter. “The work that I do is very background,” Carlson explains. “It’s what people see because the event was a success but they don’t see on a day-to-day basis. It’s nice to be recognized.” She notes the award indicates that CIM “turns out well-rounded musicians. At one point, I thought that if I took a “real” job it would mean that I couldn’t perform. If you stay within the music industry, you can still have opportunities to perform. For instance, I’m an outreach performer with CIPC and a church musician. My training from CIM means that I get to utilize all the things that I love about music instead of being defined as one thing.”

Read more about Carlson, CIM’s Johnnia Stigal, and the other 2019 honorees in the December issue of Musical America.

Building the audiences of tomorrow on #GivingTuesday

You probably know that your support on Giving Tuesday helps the Cleveland International Piano Competition provide Northeast Ohio with two weeks of breathtaking musical performances. But did you also know that your donation supports a full range of audience programming and community and educational initiatives for all audiences? Highlights from our 2019 educational outreach programs include:

  • Our ArtsConnect PianoKids program reached more than 2,000 students through programs at schools and after-school centers.
  • Our inaugural Competition Preparatory Camp for Young Artists brought together 19 young pianists aged 12-17 from four countries for an intensive week of lessons, workshops, masterclasses, and concerto classes, culminating in free community performances around the city and a student competition performance.
  • Our ArtsConnect artists reached more than 2,700 people through 123 performances at senior living facilities across northeast Ohio.
  • Our collaborative free concert series at the Beachwood Community Center reached nearly 1,100 community residents.

Every time we introduce children to the piano, we are introducing those young audiences to the joy and inspiration that can only come from music. Every time we provide free performances, we are helping to enrich the cultural life of our community. Your support on Giving Tuesday can help us continue to build and inspire the audiences of today and tomorrow. Make your secure donation here.


CIPC for Young Artists Ends on a Festive Note

Cleveland International Piano Competition
Yunchan Lim (Junior Division)
Eva Gevorgyan (Junior Division)
Hao Wei Lin (Junior Division)
JiWon Yang (Senior Division)
Xiaoxuan Li (Senior Division)
Shuan Hern Lee (Senior Division)
Photo by Roger Mastroianni

The winners of the Cleveland International Piano Competition for Young Artists were announced at an award ceremony on Saturday June 9, following an exciting final round the previous night.  After nine days of performances, fourteen-year-old Eva Gevorgyan of Russia was named first prize winner of the junior division and Xuaoxuan Li age 16, of China was named first prize winner of the senior division.

After the prizes were awarded the six finalists performed encore recitals for an enthusiastic audience that came to hear the young prodigies one last time.

Please click here for a complete list of prizewinners.

CIPC Staff Profile: Justine Porter

Meet Justine Porter, CIPC’s Director of Stewardship and Special Events.  Having joined the organization in December 2014 she’s one of the newest members of the team, but already she’s had a major impact.

Mrs. Porter is responsible for building relationships, organizing special events, and developing new ideas for capturing the interest of potential donors.  She works on an ongoing basis with CIPC board members and volunteers, donors and patrons, and representatives from corporations and foundations that make contributions and grants to the organization.

“Justine is indispensible to CIPC,” said President and CEO Pierre van der Westhuizen.  “She has helped organize our fundraising efforts and brought her own unique style to all of our special events.”

Those events include Bravo Piano, the hugely popular black tie gala that’s held at Severance Hall on the final night of the Cleveland International Piano Competition, and Encore!, a brand new event taking place in August featuring dinner and a special performance by the four winners from the 2016 competition.  (More HERE.)  Her favorite event?  “The Valentine’s Day dinner concert we’ve been presenting for the past two years,” she says without hesitation.  “It’s the perfect date night and people love it.”

Like most of the CIPC staff, Mrs. Porter is a musician.  She studied cello performance at the University of Akron with Martha Baldwin, who is a member of The Cleveland Orchestra.  Married for less than a year, she and her husband Marty live in the Kamm’s Corner neighborhood of Cleveland with their two rescues – Chip (the dog) and Franz Schubert (the cat).

CIPC Announces 2017 Concert Series

The Cleveland International Piano Competition (CIPC) will present a full year of concerts in 2017, featuring extraordinary musicians from around the world. In keeping with CIPC’s ongoing activities to “celebrate the art of piano,” the concerts present a diverse array of piano music, including solo recitals, piano duo, chamber music, and more. In addition, each concert will include a distinctive social component, which in some cases is an optional event, and, in others, is part of the concert experience. Click here  for more information, or call 216-707-5397.

(Watch this site or sign up for our e-newsletter for info on events coming in August and October!)

Friday, February 10 | 6:00 pm
The Westhuizen Duo: Viva l’Amore!
Shaker Heights Country Club
$100 per guest; includes concert, dinner with wine service, and valet parking

A delightful program of music for piano four hands and a delectable dinner inspired by legendary Italian romance. Steinway Artists Pierre and Sophié van der Westhuizen will perform works by popular Romantic composers, including Brahms, Schubert, and Gershwin. Continue reading

Watch the final round concerto performances!

2016 Cleveland International Piano Competition Final Round with the Cleveland Orchestra Georgy Tchaidze Nikita Mndoyants Leonardo Colafelice Dinara Klinton Photo by Roger Mastroianni
Nikita Mndoyants with The Cleveland Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey conducting. Photo by Roger Mastroianni

The final concerto round performances of the four finalists with The Cleveland Orchestra will be archived for 90 days at, the world’s largest broadcaster of classical music. Please click HERE to watch Georgy Tchaidze and Nikita Mndoyants (Day 1) and HERE to watch Leonardo Colafelice and Dinara Klinton (Day 2).

2106 Winner’s Prize Package Largest Ever

The winner of the 2016 Cleveland International Piano Competition will receive the most substantial prize package in the event’s history, thanks to the generosity of committed patrons and the increasing global awareness of CIPC.

To begin, the first prize cash award, known as the Mixon First Prize in honor of its donors, Mal and Barbara Mixon, has been increased from $50,000 to $75,000. The Mixons have been providing the first prize cash award since 2005, and it is among the most generous of any piano competition in the world.

In addition to some 50 concert engagements in the U.S., the winner has been invited to perform in a number of prestigious European venues, including the Salle Cortot (Paris), the Barletta Piano Festival (Italy), the Armonie della Sera Piano Festival (Italy), the Duszniki Festival (Poland), and the Vilnius Piano Festival (Lithuania). Continue reading

CIPC comes out on top!

Classical music critic Laurence Vittes was in Cleveland for the final round of the 2013 Competition, and by all accounts enjoyed himself thoroughly during his stay.  Clearly he was impressed with the quality of the finalists and The Cleveland Orchestra, as he recounts in a review on the Huffington Post.  Read it all RIGHT HERE.