The Seventh Cliburn Amateur Piano Competition begins Sunday with 68 competitors coming to North Texas from as far away as Taiwan and Turkey. And then there’s Clark Vann Griffith. KERA’s Jerome Weeks sat down with the contestant who can drive to the Cliburn performances – from his home in Fort Worth.
Clark Vann Griffith, welcome.
Competitions like this are generally seen as adding to the fun of concerts — they add suspense and tension. But beyond that, and beyond the few thousand dollars in prize money – what’s the point of an amateur competition in classical music?
So what’s the point for you?
At your home, you have a digital piano that you can make sound like a grand piano. But of course that’s not the same thing as walking out onstage in front of everyone and playing a grand piano that you’ve only practiced on briefly.
So what is that like?
You’ve entered twice before. The first time you placed third, the second time you placed second. It looks like you’re playing a long game, a kind of stair-step approach to ultimate victory.
You’re a retired database programmer. And you’re classified as an amateur. The Van Cliburn people make that distinction between professional and amateur by stipulating amateurs must be older than 35 and not making their primary living performing, teaching or composing piano music. But I’m going to ask a blunter question: How good do you think you are?
Yes, I notice you chose a prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach for your first round choice, but you brought along something else you’ve recorded. It’s lovely.What is it?
Well, Clark, good luck. And thanks.