Saturday, July 07, 2001

World's best pianists compete here

By Anya Rao
Enquirer contributor

Erh-Jen Lee of Taiwan competes at the Aronoff Center Friday.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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        After a 15-hour plane ride from her home in Taiwan, a 30-minute drive from her host family's house in Wyoming and a 30-minute quarterfinal performance, pianist Erh-Jen Lee should be able to relax. Instead, she is eager to hear if her performance Friday morning at Cincinnati's annual World Piano Competition will earn her the right to compete in today's semifinals.

        This is the 54th year for the competition, sponsored by the American Music Scholarship Association. More than 130 pianists from 23 countries flock to Cincinnati each year to compete for prize money and the chance to perform at New York's Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in February 2003.

        “It helps them launch their careers,” said Gary Smith, a spokesman for the competition.

Dale Liao of Taiwan
  • What: World Piano Competition, sponsored by the American Music Scholarship Association.
  • When:
  Today: Artist Level Semifinals, 10 a.m. Tickets: $15; Young Artist concert, 4-7 p.m., $10
  Sunday-Monday: Young Artist concerts, 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., $10.
  Tuesday: Young Artist Finals, 9 a.m., $15; Grand prize competition with three Artist Level medalists and orchestra, 6 p.m., $25-$50.
  • Where: Jarson-Kaplan Theater of the Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., downtown.
 • Tickets: 241-7469.
Ms. Liao gets flowers from Jim Tharp of Indian Hill as her husband, Wilson Lin, watches. Tharp is hosting the couple.
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        Performers are divided into two categories by age:

        In addition to $10,000 in cash for the first-place winner in the adult category, the New York concert performance carries an estimated value of $35,000 to a career, Mr. Smith said.

        • The artist level, which covers performers age 18-30.

        • The young artists, made up of pianists age 5-17. The young artists are further divided into 12 levels based on accomplishments.

        Performances are held at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater through Tuesday.

        Ms. Lee, 21, studies at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. She has been playing piano since age 5 and has traveled the world competing and performing. After she leaves Cincinnati, she will perform in Spain and Italy.

        “Music is something you must devote to completely. I don't know about others, but for me it is my pleasure,” Ms. Lee said. “I wish to introduce classical music to all types of people. I want to give this pleasure to everybody.”

        Several Cincinnati pianists are competing at the young artists level. Connor Chee, 13, of Westwood is back after winning a gold medal last year.

        Connor has been playing piano for six years and his talent has become a family affair. Three years ago, Connor's family moved from a Navajo reservation in Arizona to Cincinnati, so he could study at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. When Connor performed last year at Carnegie Hall after winning, his family traveled to New York with him.

        Though it would be nice to win again, it's not Connor's only focus. He enjoys competition because it gives him a chance to concentrate on practicing, he said.

        “Like my teacher says, it doesn't matter if you win, because it really helps just to be in it,” Connor said.


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