Wideman International Piano Competition Starts

SHREVEPORT, LA (AP) — Forty-five pianists from 12 states and countries are in Shreveport for the 64th Wideman International Piano Competition.

         Prestigious music schools including Boston University, the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Curtis Institute to the Eastman School of Music, The Julliard School and the New England Conservatory are represented. Students come from China, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Russia and Taiwan.


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         Friday's and Saturday's preliminary rounds are free, with $10 tickets for the finals Sunday afternoon, The Times’ John Andrew Prime reports.

         Competition founder Nena Plant Wideman, a longtime music local and regional music educator, was friends with internationally known pianist Van Cliburn, a Shreveport-born prodigy. Cliburn won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958, a stunning moment in the Cold War. Cliburn's mother, Rildia Bee O'Bryan Cliburn, also was friends with Wideman and served as a judge in at least one of the early Wideman competitions.

         The Wideman events began in 1950 as informal auditions, as Wideman termed them. They were officially instituted as a competition in 1959, so it could be argued that the Cliburn competition, first in 1962, was modeled as much on the Wideman events with which he and his mother had a long familiarity as the newer Tchaikovsky event.

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         But while it has grown from a humble student awards and fundraiser for the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, the event has remained humble, past winners say.

         "There are many competitions that are really all about the flash," said Yevgeny Yontov, a Ukrainian pianist who won the Wideman's Gold Medal in 2013. "They are meant for the big public, like a reality show. This really didn't feel like that. Somehow the atmosphere here was more like home. It's comfortable."

         Alon Goldstein, who won Wideman's Gold Medal in 1996 and has returned to Shreveport many times since to perform and serve as a judge, said, "The Wideman is considered a 'boutique' competition, which probably means not a 'mega' competition. It is because of this reason that it is much better for young, fragile pianists."

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         Lester Senter Wilson, who has been running the contest for 30 years, said the Wideman is about excellence, not the magnitude of prizes or showiness.

         "We concentrate on talent from all over the world with hands on to encourage, promote and lead competitors for future growth," she said. "We nurture them and support them for larger and more opportunities, and provide an atmosphere of stretching them to recognize their full potentials so they can become the stars of the future."

         For more information


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