Cincinnati’s World Piano Competition, an annual classical piano competition featuring top performers from across the globe since 1956, is undergoing an expansion with two exciting new collaborations and instituting a variety of changes aimed at enhancing the quality of the event and making Cincinnati a truly world-class destination for classical piano performance.
Primary among the changes at the re-imagined competition, already a highly respected event, are partnerships with two of the city’s cultural cornerstones – the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Beginning with the July 2013 competition, finalists in the Artist Division will have the distinct honor of performing with the world-renowned CSO, made up of some of the world’s finest musicians and an ensemble that regularly collaborates with classical music’s premier performing artists. The performances featuring the finalists will be led by CSO Associate Conductor Robert Treviño. The event will also move to CCM, one of the nation’s top performing and media arts conservatories, where the acclaimed faculty will oversee upgrades to the competition’s jury system.
“Our association with the CSO and CCM is really a game-changer for the competition,” said Mark Ernster, the organization’s interim executive director, who has served in that capacity since the retirement last fall of founder and executive director Gloria Ackerman. Ernster explained that having CSO’s musicians backing the finalists is expected to result in an uptick in both the number and quality of applicants, as well as in audience numbers. CCM’s review and improvement of the jury system will enhance the organization’s credibility, a critical success element in the world of classical piano competition. Both partnerships will allow the competition more efficiently to leverage administrative economies of scale and artistic expertise.
“We’re talking about one of the world’s best orchestras and one of the most respected conservatories,” he said; “that’s pretty good company to keep.”
The Artist Division winner will also have the unique opportunity to record a solo piano album using CCM’s state of the art recording facilities and engineers in the school’s Division of Electronic Media. The recording will be released on the CSO’s Fanfare Cincinnati label, globally distributed by Naxos.
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra offers competitors a chance of a lifetime
CSO President Trey Devey said the partnership with the World Piano Competition fits in well with this organization’s strategic vision, which includes raising Cincinnati’s global profile and enhancing the quality of life through great musical performances. “With this important collaboration and the unique assets of these three partners, the World Piano Competition is poised to join the ranks of the world’s most respected piano competitions,” he said.
The CSO, which also performs as the Cincinnati Pops, is the official orchestra for the May Festival, the oldest continuous choral festival in the Western Hemisphere, as well as Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Ballet. The World Piano Competition will be the fourth in a series of strategic partnerships that, according to Mr. Devey, “elevate the cultural offerings in our region.” Having additional performances for the CSO also helps to ensure that Cincinnati can sustain a world-class orchestra.
The CSO will also provide support to the competition by way of administration, ticketing, data systems, stage management and the extensive orchestra library.
The CSO’s participation as the official orchestra for the competition was made possible by generous support from Anne and George H. Musekamp, Sue and Bill Friedlander, Christine and Tom Neyer, Sr., Trish and Rick Bryan, and Vicky and Rick Reynolds.
University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music hosts performers and master teachers from around the world
CCM Dean Peter Landgren sees similar advantages, including added exposure for the college during the summer season when students are largely off campus. “We have taken this opportunity to align CCM’s existing piano activities – including our Art of the Piano Program and our Preparatory Summer Piano Institute – with two weeks of World Piano Competition activities,” he said. “This new collaboration will make Cincinnati and CCM a premiere destination for world-class piano programs and activities. Bringing the CSO to CCM is also an imperative for our college, so this partnership was a great fit in many ways.”
Members of CCM’s faculty, under the leadership of Associate Professor of Piano and Artist-in-Residence Awadagin Pratt, have developed repertoire lists and refined the competition rules. Competitors will also have a greatly enhanced experience in Cincinnati by virtue of both CCM’s state-of-the-art facilities and the University of Cincinnati’s general services and amenities, including a campus hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful college campuses by Forbes Magazine. Within CCM Village, this also includes access to practice rooms outfitted with Steinway pianos – CCM is an All-Steinway School – and master classes held in conjunction with the Art of the Piano Program. CCM’s visually striking and acoustically fine Corbett Auditorium, which received the United States Institute for Theatre Technology’s Meritorious Achievement Award for Outstanding New Theatre upon its opening, will host the competition’s main performances. Along with the practice, rehearsal, competition and performance venues and pianos, CCM will also provide tuning, technical and logistical support.
CCM’s Art of the Piano Program (July 13 – 26) and Preparatory Summer Piano Institute (July 15 – 19) will run concurrently with the competition, effectively bringing the world’s most sought-after piano teachers and artists together with up-and-coming performers from around the world.
Re-imagined World Piano Competition
The two new partnerships are only a part of many changes under way at the competition, which was founded in 1956. The organization has created and begun implementing a multi-year strategic plan and has recruited new board members. It is moving into the CSO’s office space at Music Hall and has developed a new logo and redesigned website. It is also ramping up a more aggressive communications and outreach effort.
“The World Piano Competition has always attracted top-tier competitors from around the world but, frankly, we need to grow our base, both in terms of supporters and audience,” said Ernster. “By doing so, we will not only ensure the competition’s future growth and success but also build Cincinnati’s reputation as a world-class music destination.”
The World Piano Competition supports the development and enjoyment of the art of classical piano through promotion and education. In addition to cash prizes, winners are afforded a variety of exposure opportunities through performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, as well as locally. The competition also helps foster appreciation for classical piano through community outreach with its Bach/Beethoven/Brahms program for school children and dinner performances featuring past and present competition winners.
This year marks the World Piano Competition’s 57th season. The 2013 event dates for the Artist Division (for ages 18 to 32) are July 8 – 13. The three finalists will perform with the CSO under the direction of Associate Conductor Robert Treviño on July 13. The Young Artist (ages five to 17) dates are July 22 – 27. Both competitions take place at CCM, and online registration (www.cincinnatiwpc.org) is now open. The application deadline is March 15. More information is available at 513-421-5342.
Tickets for 2013 World Piano Competition performances will be available at the Music Hall Box Office, or by calling 513-381-3300, starting March 4 at 10 a.m. Ticket prices start at $15 for the Artist Division and $10 for the Young Artist Division.