Musicians from around the world are gathered in northwest Iowa to tickle the ivories. It’s the first annual World Piano Competition, created by the Sioux City Symphony. Kevin Engel-Cartie is marketing director for the symphony. It’ll be an annual event from now on, as it’s been planned from the start to be one of the largest of its kind, and he thinks it ranks among the top 20 competitions in the nation on the basis of its prize — 14-thousand dollars. The symphony raised the money itself, and directors chose to spend the cost of a typical concert on staging this event instead, to foster up-and-coming piano players. He says the piano world is “kind of a small community,” so once you send word to faculty at universities it spreads, and from an international group the invitation spread all over. Contestants range from age 20 to 35 and have a variety of experience and home countries. Most of the competitors are currently living in the US but he says there are people from Serbia, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and one who flew from Italy. Half a dozen will remain after the competition that’s been underway today. It’s subjective choosing who’s the best piano player, but Engel-Cartie says it’s fascinating to hear the different styles. Morningside College is hosting the competition, and Schmitt Music, a sponsor, has trucked in more pianos so there will be enough for a dozen competitors to play day and night. They even needed to engage a piano-tuner for the event. He says there are actually two tuners, one part-time, and all week they’re going in to constantly tune up the performance and warmup pianos. Competition will resume tomorrow (Friday) evening in the Eppley auditorium at Morningside College, and the final three contestants play a concerto with the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra on Saturday. There’s a half-million dollars worth of pianos just on loan for all the playing going on at the piano competition.
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