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Fort Worth's most prized arts competition moves next edition to Dallas

Fort Worth's most prized arts competition moves next edition to Dallas

Tony Yike Yang, Cliburn, 2017 Cliburn competition
Canadian pianist Tony Yike Yang competed in the 2015 Cliburn junior competition and again at the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Photo courtesy of The Cliburn
Alessio Bax
SMU artist-in-residence Alessio Bax will chair the jury for the 2019 Cliburn junior competition. Photo courtesy of The Cliburn
Dallas Symphony Orchestra
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra will accompany the 2019 Cliburn junior finalists at the Meyerson Symphony Center. Photo by Robert Bostick
Tony Yike Yang, Cliburn, 2017 Cliburn competition
Alessio Bax
Dallas Symphony Orchestra

In what is sure to be the most shocking North Texas piano news of January, the Fort Worth-based Cliburn says it will pack up the trophies and move its next competition to Dallas.

The second Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival will take place on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas in spring 2019. In addition, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will perform concertos with the teenage finalists at the Meyerson Symphony Center.

The move to Dallas marks the first time the organization, a crown jewel of Fort Worth culture, will stage a major program outside namesake Van Cliburn’s adopted hometown since Cliburn competitions began in 1962. The inaugural Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival was held in June 2015 at Texas Christian University, with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra accompanying the finalists.

The competition’s move to Dallas, says Cliburn president and CEO Jacques Marquis, is part of a strategic plan to broaden the Cliburn’s reach in North Texas.

“One key to continuing the Cliburn’s strategic advancement is to continuously reach a broader community, both around the world and in our own backyard,” Marquis says in a release. “We believe [holding the competition in Dallas] will expose the Cliburn to a greater audience base in the region, as well as bring fantastic new partnerships with SMU, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and more to come.”

Although a Dallas Cliburn competition might come as a snub to Fort Worth piano fans and further fuel crosstown rivalries, Marquis says the organization has no plans to abandon the city.

“Fort Worth was Van Cliburn’s home and is the Cliburn’s permanent home,” he says. “It will, in perpetuity, play host to the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. We have no intention of lessening our presence in Fort Worth; in fact, we have been increasing our programs in our hometown.”

Marquis notes that the Cliburn offices remain in Fort Worth, as do regular concert and educational series.

The Cliburn stages three competitions within a four-year cycle: The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (to take place next in 2021 at Bass Hall); the Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival; and the Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition (staged next in 2020, location not yet announced).

Though not nearly as big a draw as the flagship international competition, the junior event in 2015 attracted 160 applications from 26 countries, and 23 pianists ages 13 to 17 participated. More than 30 journalists, including several from Europe, covered the event in person. Live and on-demand webcast views have topped 100,000 for over 1 million minutes watched by viewers in 170 countries, the Cliburn says.

The top three finishers in 2015 were from Kazakhstan, Russia, and China. One prize-winner from Canada returned to compete in the 2017 “big” Cliburn, earning a spot in the semifinals.

Alessio Bax, a professional pianist, alumnus of SMU, and the university’s artist-in-residence, will chair the jury for the competition, which takes place May 31-June 8, 2019.

Young pianists can begin applying March 1, 2018. A screening jury will select 24 competitors, who will stay on the SMU campus during the competition and festival.

Samuel Holland, dean of the SMU Meadows School of the Arts, says in a release, "We look forward to greeting the world’s finest young pianists with a warm Dallas welcome.”

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