I brought my mom back with me to Seattle and we had only been here 5 days when she asked if we had plans for September 15th. I told her that the world was our oyster and wondered what she was thinking.
She had been going through the stack of Seattle/Seattle Met magazines in the apartment and read that the Seattle Symphony was holding its first-ever piano competition, in partnership with the Young Concert Artists and the Washington Piano Arts. My mom said that she had listened to broadcasts of piano competitions on the radio for years but had never had the chance to attend one in person. That was it, we were going to the Seattle Symphony Piano Competition at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle.
The process began last Spring when a panel of reviewers started listening to audio recordings submitted by applicants worldwide. The panel selected 8 pianists from the submissions and the live competition began on September 15th with a Recital Round. Those who made the cut proceeded to the Semi-Final Round on September 16th. At last, three finalists (Kevin Ahfat, Kenny Broberg and Vijay Venkatesh) performed on Friday night for a ticketed Final Round.
My mom and I attended the afternoon Recital Round on September 15th and heard Peng-Chian Chen, Peter Chuang-Chuang Fang, Vijay Venkatesh and Sean Yeh perform. It was a fabulous experience and it was interesting to see (and hear) the vast differences between the pianists and their interpretations of the same piece of music.
Vijay Venkatesh was our favorite and I commented to my mom during intermission that I felt like I had actually seen him move out of reality and into the music while I watched. He was completely absorbed and it was moving.
Kevin Ahfat won the competition (congratulations!) and we were happy to hear that Vijay Venkatesh tied with Kenny Broberg for second place - Bravo! The Grand Prize was a $10,000 cash prize, many future opportunities and a performance on the Seattle Symphony's Opening Night concert on September 19th. What a week Kevin had!
Second Prize was a $5,000 cash prize and a consultation with Young Concert Artists and First Chair Promotion. The competition also awarded a $1,000 cash prize to Audience Favorite, Kenny Broberg.
Once upstairs, we admired the magnificent almost candy-like chandelier "Crystal Cascade" by Dale Chihuly, from the second story overlook outside the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall where the piano competition took place.
I know that over the next decade I will spend many nights in this magnificent building and attending a piano competition makes for a fun first memory.