USASU International Piano Competition

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Arizona State University is hosting the 6th Bosendorfer and Yamaha USASU International Piano Competitions on January 6-13, 2013. Competition founder and ASU Associate Professor of Piano, Dr. Baruch Meir, talks about some of the special features of this year’s competitions.

Ted Simons: Some of the world's finest young pianists are coming to ASU to compete in the Bosendorfer and Yamaha U.S. ASU International Piano Competitions. (Piano playing)

Ted Simons: These are highlights from last year's competitions. This year 198 pianists from 31 countries applied, but only 42 were selected to compete. The event starts this Sunday with a concert featuring world-renowned pianist Martha Argerich. The competitions conclude one week later at symphony hall where the finalists will perform a concert with the Phoenix symphony. Here now to tell us more about the competitions is Dr. Baruch Meir, associate professor of piano at ASU's school of music. He's also the founder, president and artistic director of the U.S. USA international piano competition. That is a big deal isn't it?

Dr. Baruch Meir: The competition started in 2006. I know it's a big name, I tried to come up with a name that will include University and the importance of it being in the United States. So we have pianists from 31 countries, coming this year to the competition, a jury of international stature such as Martha Argerich, legendary pianist, one of the most famous there is.

Ted Simons: I want to ask you about her. I've got C.D.s, this is the real deal. How did she become involved in this?

Dr. Baruch Meir: You know, every great thing from my experience happens by coincidence. Martha was here a year ago visiting her family, her daughter who lives here and teaches at ASU. And she needed a place to practice, and ended up practicing in my studio for a week, and we basically became friends. And I invited her to come, and although it was kind of unlikely because with her busy schedule, she agreed, and we're thrilled to help her.

Ted Simons: As far as the competition is concerned, what was the criteria as far as selection is concerned, and what -- The competition, when people watch these things, what do you look for? What could you listen for?

Dr. Baruch Meir: It's a variety of things. Let's say of course the technical command of the instrument is important. But that's something that I can tell you from the 198 applicants that applied, almost everybody I would say 99% of the pianists have on the highest degree. It's really we're looking for somebody who has a very unique and personal way of interpreting music, who make something of their own and is very convincing and communicating of the audience. So when we listen to that person, we are carried away with their music. We feel part of it. It's something where we're so excited by.

Ted Simons: It's not something necessarily where the performer has to do -- They could silt stock still and still captivate a room.

Dr. Baruch Meir: It varies from one performance to another. One pianist stands still, myself, I -- I have my own way of playing. And it's something that usually you do not teach how to -- Being a a pianist is something like being an actor. One pianist sits still, one pianist moves more, it's very individual.

Ted Simons: The age range now for these competitions, we have three different competitions.Correct? Talk to us.

Dr. Baruch Meir: We are having -- The Yamaha competition is combined of two categories. Ages 13-15, and ages 16-18. So these are young pianists. They will start competing only on Wednesday and they will finish on Saturday with the winners recital next Saturday, 7:30 at ASU. The Bosendorfer competition is what we call the largest group, we have 28 pianists in this group. They are ages 19-32, they will compete starting Monday morning after they draw their numbers and they'll compete with the first round until Wednesday. And then they'll become 28 to eight, and eight to three, that will play with the symphony with the Phoenix symphony next Sunday night.

Ted Simons: Are there pieces that they are required to play, or can any performer choose whatever they want to perform?

Dr. Baruch Meir: Pretty much there are a few rounds, so in the Bosendorfer competition there are three rounds. We require very minimal amount of required repertoire. So in the first, we asked everybody to play an ETUDE. In the first round. In the second round we ask everybody to play a classical SONATA. That's only a part of everything else they can summit on their own. So if they play 15 minutes of a classical SONATA, they can still play 25 minutes of free choice. The finals we give them a huge list of CONCERTOS that the symphony has mastered, and that's exciting to see which will end up in the final.

Ted Simons: You have someone like Martha Argerich who is judging the finals?

Dr. Baruch Meir: Martha is sitting with us from the beginning, she's actually -- Martha will start with the recital on Saturday night, with Sergei Babayan, they're going to play two pianos, concert at ASU, and then Martha will sit with the jurys, Sergei Babayan, Choong Mo Kang from the juilliard School, Yanina Kudlik from Israel and Robert Hamilton and myself from ASU will sit through the entire week. And the final night.

Ted Simons: As far as the performances are concerned, are tickets sold?

Dr. Baruch Meir: Tickets, the entire competition is open to the public and free. The competition itself. Anybody who wants to come and listen to great music and great pianist assist invited to come throughout the week. Starting Monday at 1:30 in the afternoon. There are three ticketed events. The Martha Argerich concert, this Sunday evening at 7:30, and the winner's recital of the Yamaha competition next Saturday at 7:30. And you can get tickets at the ASU box office. Or just go to and you'll be directed from there. The symphony concert you get at the symphony hall online. Everything is available online.

Ted Simons: All right. Well, we'll look forward to this. This is pretty exciting stuff. thank you for joining us and congratulations into turning this into a very well renowned competition.

Dr. Baruch Meir: Thank you. And I hope the audience and the community will share with us.

Ted Simons: Thank you.

Dr. Baruch Meir:Competition Founder and Associate Professor of Piano, ASU;

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