If you’ve lived in the area for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of the Hilton Head International Piano Competition, now in its 21st year.
But many may not know exactly what goes on at the competition, or how to get the most out of the six-day event.
“A lot of people I run into at the grocery story don’t always know what I’m talking about,” said Mona Huff, director of the competition.
But if you walk into any of the world’s top conservatories or music schools, Huff said, people can tell you all about the island’s competition.
In fact, as the only international piano competition in the Southeast operating on this level, Huff said the event enjoys a high degree of prestige.
“It is one of the most highly regarded competitions in the United States,” she said.
With that in mind, here are four things to know about this year’s competition and the event in general:
It draws the best of the best.
If you’ve never been before, please note, this is not your granddaughter’s piano recital.
One hundred and eighty world class pianists from 36 countries applied — a record-breaking number for the event.
A jury from some of the top conservatories around the country were flown into judge.
Twenty were selected.
Ages range from 18-30.
It’s entertaining to watch.
The competition often sees crowds in the thousands depending on the day of competition and many attend every year.
Some may go just for the music alone or on a particular day. Others follow the competition as it unfolds throughout the week. Either way, it can be exciting, organizers say.
“It’s thrilling to see pianists of this caliber right here on our own little island,” Huff said.
It is after all a competition. And while the competition can be fierce, interestingly enough, many of the musicians know each other since the world of competitive playing can be a small one.
What’s more, the first place winner receives a $15,000 cash prize, a performance at Carnegie Hall and a professional recording on the Steinway & Sons label.
Second place receives $10,000 and third place receives $5,000.
In addition, each semifinalist receives $1,000.
It’s more than just a competition.
The event also offers a day of master classes for competitors as well as a lecture and recital on March 14.
In addition, as part of its “Ambassadors Program,” the first pool of competitors who do not advance will make appearances and play at schools throughout the area. Many retirement homes have also requested the professional musicians play for their communities as well.
If You Go
Twenty pianists will perform two preliminary rounds at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, 14 Shelter Cove Lane, Hilton Head Island:
Round I: 2–4:35 p.m. and 7– 9:35 p.m.; March 7 and March 8
Round II: 2–5 p.m. and 7–10 p.m. March 9 and March 10
Six semi-finalists will be announced March 10 and will then compete during Round III, at First Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head, 540 William Hilton Parkway:
Round III: 2–5 p.m. and 7–10 p.m. March 12
Three finalists will then perform with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra on March 14 which will include a finals and awards ceremony, also at First Presbyterian Church:
Round IV: 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.) March 14
Tickets range from $12-$20 depending on the round with a four-day pass available for $65. Available at the door and online.
For details call 843-842-2055 or visit www.hhipc.org.