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"It takes a village," they say, "to raise a child." For a child with musical ability in Western North Carolina, that village includes the Asheville Area Piano Forum. (Full disclosure: I am an AAPF member. Most cities have an association of professional pianists and piano teachers; in Asheville, the association is also open to amateur pianists, so I am eligible.)
The AAPF held its Annual Piano Competition last weekend. Nineteen teachers were represented and seventy-five students, aged six to eighteen, competed in five divisions. Every student received a written critique, and the six judges selected four winners in each category. The first-place winners were Ezra Szobody (primary category), Christopher Rajagopal (elementary), Jaiden Ramseur (intermediate), Joshua Tjung (difficult) and Freeman Dalton (advanced). A double winner in this year's competition was teacher Robert Setzer of Hickory, N.C. since both Ramseur and Dalton are his students.
The competition ended with a Winners' Recital on Sunday at Broyhill Chapel, Mars Hill College. A few winners could not fit the recital into their busy schedules, but some "honorable mentions" had been awarded, so in all we heard twenty-one talented young people. The level of performance was remarkably high throughout. This is attributable not only to the young people's talent and hard work, but also to the support of their parents and the dedication of their teachers. As I say, it takes a village.
The three top category winners had chosen challenging repertoire. Dalton played Liszt's Concert Etude No. 3 in D-flat, S. 144. Tjung played the third movement Allegro assai of Mozart's Sonata No. 12 in F, K. 332. Ramseur performed Beethoven's Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor, WoO 59, commonly known as "Für Elise." The other two category winners had chosen well-known instructional choices. Rajagopal played Burgmuller's "Arabesque," Op. 100, No. 2 and the very young Ezra Szobody played Mozart's Minuet in F, K. 2 from the Notenbuch für Nannerl, pieces written for Mozart's young daughter.
As is inevitable with inexperienced performers, there were moments when excess adrenaline caused a performance to be taken at more than the planned tempo. Here and there were hiccups (wrong notes or other lapses) but most of these were played through, just as a professional would. The students had been coached well.
Debussy, Khatchaturian and Moszkowski were among the other composers represented. Some primary and elementary selections were by American composers of instructional music, in several cases people of whom I had not previously known. Noteworthy was David Carr Glover's "The Great Smoky Mountains," a clever and appealing work using the sustaining pedal and arpeggios. They were so much more attractive than the John Thompson books that I started with as a seven year old.
The other winners, listed alphabetically, were Ricky Aron, Sean Aberle, Conner Awald, Abigail Chung, Wesley Dalton, Kate Dundas, Erin Forester, Alessandro Gagea, Mackenzie Jordan, Max Lunders, Abigail Morrison, Stephan Procopii, Catherine Roberts, Grace Ryback, Elias Szobody, Josiah Szobody, Myra Szobody, Bennett Tepper and Gabriel Vickers.
All in all, these were a fine group of budding musicians and a credit to the village that raised them. Principally that village consists of the teachers in the Asheville Area Piano Forum, but credit should also be given to the sponsors of the competition: Mars Hill University, Altavista Wealth Management and the Eric Anderson Weigel Memorial Fund.