Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Van Cliburn Competition--and more

Every four years, Fort Worth hosts the international Van Cliburn Piano Competition. Young pianists come from all over the world to compete in this prestigious event--one of if not the most renowned in the world. Newspaper coverage is, of course, intense, and those of us who read the newspaper feel we get to know each competitor. The program starts with thirty; twelve make the semi-finals, and six the finals.
Fort Worth families host these young people, no small task. They have to assure the pianist will have privacy, and a grand piano or baby grand is imported into the house for practice. Some hosts request no practice after ten; others just enjoy the music. Host families provide entertainment, comfort, and support. Good friends of mine hosted a competitor this time around. He wanted steak every night--apparently our steak is better than that in his native Italy, and he wanted the protein to keep him in shape for the competition. So they took him for the best steaks in the city. My friends, Mary and Joe, fell in love with Alessandro Taverna, as they have with every competitor they've hosted, and they were crushed when he didn't make the semi-finals. In an article in the paper this morning Mary was quoted as saying Alessandro was more philosophical than she, saying he was just starting his career and he knew such disappointments were part of it. In the end, he wound up consoling her.
The article, with its quotes from Mary, got me to thinking about competitions. I admit to being fairly addicted to the Food Network, though "Chopped" is not one of my favorite programs. Still, if I'm in the kitchen cooking, I watch it and soon find myself identifying with one of the contestants. I'm always crushed when they are chopped. All are graceful about accepting it, but I sense their disappointment...and many had such great dreams of what they would do with the prize money.
Then my mind jumped to writing, not unusual for me, and I thought about all the competitions for writers. I've been fortunate enough in my career to win really nice awards for my western writing (including the Western Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award) but none for my mysteries. I still feel a novice in the mystery field, with four books published, and am neither surprised nor disappointed. Some of the most prestigious prizes are based on votes from fellow writers, and I know I don't attend conferences and schmooze enough to get that well known. On the other hand, I treasure the fans who write me about how much they enjoy my books. And I'm not really good about submitting for contests--my children would tell me that's a defeatist attitude.
But it struck me that whatever your passion--music, art, cooking, writing and others--there are competitions and you have to go for the gold ring. Losing competitions is part of growth in your career, and more power to people like Alessandro who can be philosophical and accepting.
Tomorrow we find out who the Van Cliburn winner is, but great career opportunities will come to all those who made the competition (screening is pretty fierce) and I wish them all well as they carry their beautiful music out into the world.

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