You Can Watch Some of the Country's Best Pianists Compete This Week, for Free

Tune your pianos, plug in your keyboards and practice your scales, kids. Or at the very least, go to the Van Cliburn website and click the giant play button on the Cliburn Radio tab, because it only happens once every four years and it's quickly approaching.

This May 24 through June 9, Fort Worth will host the 14th quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. But the opportunity to hear incredible piano music starts this week.

While you've been sitting on your ass thinking about maybe but probably not picking up the guitar again, there are people around the world who've been practicing piano for hours on end every day. They're really good at this one thing, but that doesn't mean they can make a living doing it. Not yet. So they enter piano competitions like the Van Cliburn. The prizes are big; cash and career management contracts await the winners.

Leading up to the competition, the Van Cliburn holds screening auditions all around the world. A five-member jury (you can read their blog here) will hear more than 130 pianists perform in Hong Kong, Milan, New York City, Hannover, Moscow and, this week, Fort Worth. The auditions take place Wednesday through Friday in TCU's Ed Landreth Auditorium and are completely free and open to the public. Each afternoon from 2 to 5:20 p.m. and evening from 7:30 to 10, you can pop in and hear hopeful competitors play their hearts out for a chance to compete in May.

The auditions are an incredible (and, again, free) opportunity to get a taste of a piano competition. Plus, there's always the chance you might happen on the next gold medalist's audition. Each performer plays a 40-minute recital. Even if you only have time to hear one or two recitals, you're sure to catch some impressive playing. It's like piano Olympics, and the quality of the playing -- even by those who don't make the final cut -- is exceptionally high.

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