Cincy World Piano Competition kicks off

On Saturday at the Kingsgate Marriott, officials of the Cincinnati World Piano Competition unveiled the new tennis tournament- like bracket that will pit pairs of competitors against each other. They will continue in winners and consolation sides, as the field winnows  down. Check out the article in the Enquirer that explains it all.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, there should be 12 pianists remaining. Now the competition heats up.

At Saturday’s event, a video of shown of how the order was determined. Artistic director Awadagin Pratt, who was in S. Africa, drew the names and read them via Skype to UC President Santa Ono, who spun a barrel of numbered ping-pong balls to assign their number.

Competitors, host families and officials assembled on Saturday

On Monday, I headed over to CCM, where the First Round was still under way, to hear some of the competitors. I have to say, it was a little strange to hear — after two pianists had performed their selections — an announcement saying which pianist was the “winner,” advancing to the winners’ bracket, and which pianist would advance to the “consolation” bracket.

Executive director Mark Ernster said that the judges, for whom this was a first, had told him that making a snap judgment on the spot “is the easiest thing in the world and the hardest thing in the world.” I can imagine!

Contestants Hidemi Minagawa and Joseph Kingma, old friends, didn't know they would be competing in the same competition
Contestants Hidemi Minagawa and Joseph Kingma, old friends, didn’t know they would be competing in the same competition

The half dozen or so that I heard on the magnificent Steinway grand in Corbett Auditorium were all quite good. Of course, to a person, they displayed flawless technique. But there is much more to musicianship than playing all of the notes. What will make these superbly-trained, talented pianists stand out to the judges? There is a symposium later this week to address what they are listening for.

A large digital screen was on display in the lobby, showing how many audience votes the

Awadagin Pratt unveiled the bracket
Awadagin Pratt unveiled the bracket

contestants were already racking up — some who had yet to perform. Audience members can vote via text and twitter. Or, vote online at

To read more, visit

Third Round: Wednesday, 10 a.m.-1:15 p.m. and 5 p.m.-8:15 p.m.

Semifinal Round: Thursday, 12 p.m.-3 p.m. and 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

Final Round with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Where: Corbett Auditorium, CCM Village, University of Cincinnati.

Tickets: Day passes start at $15 for the first rounds (discounts for students and groups). Finals reserved seating starts at $35. 513-381-3300, For more information, visit

The jury: Pianists Akemi Alink-Yamamoto, Jura Margulis, Yoshikazu Nagai, Boris Slutsky and Frank Weinstock



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