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Music competition pushes ahead

By Alix Norman

If you’ve a young pianist in the family, Read This Now! Because the Avantgarde Piano Competition for Young Pianists is the most important event of its kind on the island. And, thanks to electronic application and a lot of forewarning, it looks like this is one event that will be going ahead!

A proving ground for anyone under the age of 17 who has a talent for tinkling the ivories, the Avantgarde Piano Competition for Young Pianists has been held every two years since 1998. Over 300 young pianists have participated in the 11 competitions since its inception – many of whom have since gone to great things: most have studied music, piano performance, and composition; several have achieved notable prizes and awards on a global scale; and many are now professional performers.

What makes the competition unique is the age range: six-year-olds can pit their skills against teenagers who have been playing the piano for over a decade. “We don’t separate the participants according to their age,” says Avantgarde Foundation President Stavros Kyriakides, “and this is the beauty of it. There’s no limit as to how young a participant might be; they’re judged with certain, measurable criteria such as musicality, technical ability, overall performance and adherence to music performed. Therefore, it’s possible for a 10-year-old to win the competition despite having to compete against 16 and 17-year-olds. And this has happened in the past,” he notes, “on more than one occasion!”

The way the competition works is pretty simple, and application requires no personal contact whatsoever. “Applications are submitted remotely,” explains Stavros. “Interested participants can call us for the application form and details, and we will send out the information either by mail or electronically. There is no personal contact, and the first time the judges will see any of the participants will be on May 1.”

As things stand, the application process must be completed by April 11, although Stavros notes that – due to the current sanctions – this date may be pushed back to a week or so, to give people more time to prepare.

“At the moment, music schools and instructors across the island have contacted us to tell us they’re holding online teaching sessions with potential competitors. And since there will be no physical contact or need for anyone to appear in public before the start of May, we’re leaving things exactly the way they are. We all need,” he continues, “a bit of light in the darkness, and thanks to planning ahead, we’re in a position to hold the competition as organised.

“The only aspect which may change is the eventual venue of the competition,” he adds. “The Presidential Palace has postponed events for the next couple of months, but we can certainly find another, safe venue for such a prestigious, long-standing competition.”

The actual competition will see applicants play their hearts out (on a Steinway, of course – the world’s finest grand and upright pianos) for the judging panel on May 1. Six finalists will then be selected, and go on to the decider, held on May 2 and broadcast live on CyBC. And then, once it’s all over, the ultimate winner will represent Cyprus at the 19th Steinway International Festival in Hamburg – a highly prestigious occasion which, as it’s months away, Stavros is certain will go ahead.

“Every two years, in September, Steinway brings together young piano talents from around the world,” explains Stavros. “The up-and-coming pianists who participate are the proud winners of their local Steinway or Steinway-supported piano competitions, which makes them the best in their home countries. And the presence of a young Cypriot pianist at such a major classical event is extremely beneficial: they’ll meet other talented pianists from around the world, enjoy exposure to a large and classically-educated audience in Germany, experience a unique festival programme, and will perform their music in Hamburg’s famous Laeiszhalle concert hall.”

“That said,” Stavros notes wisely, “winning isn’t everything! The exposure alone, the association with other young talents, the boost in confidence, and the opportunity to meet with great artists – 2020 sees a three-member jury panel of distinguished musicians from Germany, Italy and Argentina – are all elements which help a young person on their way to becoming a great artist.”

In essence, the Avantgarde Piano Competition for Young Pianists is a springboard – a jumping off point for talented young pianists. And if that sounds like someone in your family, sign them up; who knows, this might be the start of a bright, musical future!

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