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The First Cliburn Junior Competition Won’t Be The Last
by Bill Zeeble 29 Jun 2015

The winners were chosen Sunday night. You can hear them perform in this piece from KERA’s Bill Zeeble.

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Of course the winners of the Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition would say it was worth it. But first place finisher Alim Beisembayev, who’s studied in England the past five years, almost didn’t apply.

“It’s a lot of work. It’s been extremely stressful, and had some surprises but it was really a great pleasure to be here.”

Cliburn Junior award winners Arsenii Mun, 16, of Russia, (second place), Alim Beisembayev, 17, of Kazakhstan, (first prize) and Youlan Ji, 16, of China, (third prize) pose with jury chairman Jon Nakamatsu after the first Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival, in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 28, 2015. (The Cliburn/Rodger Mallison)

Cliburn Junior award winners Arsenii Mun, 16, of Russia, (second place), Alim Beisembayev, 17, of Kazakhstan, (first prize) and Youlan Ji, 16, of China, (third prize) pose with jury chairman Jon Nakamatsu after the first Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival, in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 28, 2015. Photo: The Cliburn/Rodger Mallison.

The 17-year-old is from Kazahkstan.  His first prize scored him $10,000. He played Tchaikovsky’s first Concerto, because Van Cliburn played it in Moscow when he won in 1958. Alim had never played this concerto in public before.

Russian Arseni Mun had at least played the Grieg concerto before. The 16 year-old came in 2nd, winning $5,000. His secret to success?

“When I start to play I just think about what I’m doing now and I’m not nervous when I play.”

Third place Cliburn Jr. pianist Youlan Ji says this contest helped further her focus on piano.

“I’m still not sure yet about a career,” Ji said, “but I think this definitely helps with my confidence. Now I know better what I want to do.”

Ji played Chopin’s 2nd concerto. She hadn’t played it in public before either. As for firsts, Cliburn President Jacques Marquis says the Cliburn Jr. competition will be back in four years. He told the awards ceremony audience it presented great music and encouraged very young pianists.

“25 hours of music. 5 symposia, 4 community concerts. One hamburger party. One ice cream party. One pizza party. This is a junior competition.”

Often enough, they didn’t sound so “junior.” And despite being competitors, many became friends.

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