Eleven contestants participated in a competition Wednesday that marked the first day of the second annual Pittsburg Piano Festival, three of whom will perform with the SEK orchestra Friday night.
Sponsored by the Treble Clef Club, the Pittsburg Piano Festival celebrates talent from the elementary to professional level. The competition is open to pianists in the Junior, Senior, and Young Artists divisions. This year, competitors in the Senior and Young Artists division were required to prepare a piano concerto.
“We wanted something new, everything we want to make something new and better, so we thought ‘well let’s do concerto.’ … That’s what we told our contestants, for the upper two levels, a movement of a concerto. … So we didn’t’ have as many this year but I don’t care because what we had was amazing,” Janis Saket, vice president of the Treble Clef Club, said.
Two judges adjudicated the concerto portion of the competition: Tomoko Kashiwagi, professor at the University of Arkansas, and Barbara York of Pittsburg, Kansas.
“The judging process, rather than criticizing like the little phrases, measure by measure, note by note, this one was about … the whole performance of the movement, some of them were more clear or more demonstrative of their music, things like that, so it was more about the performance, which made it a lot easier for us,” Kashiwagi said.
York added that the difficulty level of a piece did not necessarily determine placement among the top three winners in each category.
“We even agreed on the fact that it’s not always the most difficult literature that should get it either, because sometimes you’re overreaching yourself, sometimes a player might overreach themselves with the literature or choose literature that doesn’t show off the best aspects of themselves,” York said.
Contestants performed a variety of literature from Mozart to Grieg. Christian Atteberry, senior in music performance at UMKC, won first place in the Young Artists division with his performance of Prokofiev’s first piano concerto.
“I played the piece during the school year with the UMKC orchestra and I just thought it would be really fun to play again,” he said. “The Bicknell is absolutely fabulous, I’m really impressed. I was here briefly a few years ago when they were building it, but I hadn’t been here since then, and I have to say this is really, really nice.”
In order to prepare the concerto, Atteberry said he practices for hours a day, but he added that practice should not be a stress-inducing activity and should be structured to obtain the best results at the time, which, he said, does not always mean spending hours in the practice room.
“Don’t overdo it, when you have accomplished what you need to accomplish, just let it be, don’t stress over it,” he said. “My practice regimen varies anywhere from one to five hours a day, it varies on how you feel, don’t overdo it. When you practice make it count.”
The top three winners in each division performed in a recital later that afternoon, and the first-place winners in each division will play Friday evening with the SEK orchestra.
The piano festival will continue through Saturday, with a concert by pianist Teng Fu Thursday, July 12, the winner’s concert Friday, July 13, and the Happy Dog Duo Saturday, July 14. Each concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Bicknell Center.