CAPE VINCENT The sound of passionate piano music fluttered through willow trees this weekend at Maple Grove Bed-and-Breakfast, 596 W. Broadway, which overlooks the St. Lawrence River.
Sunday was the last day of competition for 16 young musicians at the 10th annual Thousand Islands International Piano Competition sponsored by the Chopin Society of the Thousand Islands and the Cape Vincent Arts Council. To secure a spot in the three-day competition, the piano players needed a glowing recommendation from their instructors.
Many contestants came from elite schools such as The Juilliard School, New York City.
Some have been perfecting their skills since they first were able to speak full sentences, and many of them have competed in major cities throughout the world.
The competition was founded by the late Dr. William J. Grant, said Liz P. Brennan, co-chairwoman. He wanted to combine the beautiful area with beautiful music and support young artists, she said.
The competition has been held in a white tent next to stately Maple Grove for five years. We want people to be outside and enjoy it, Ms. Brennan said. Its a pretty unique setting for the competitors.
Several of the contestants had never played with only a thin sheet of vinyl protecting them from the elements. Many enjoyed the simple beauty of Cape Vincent.
I love the town, said 17-year-old Victoria C. Ruggiero, Lancaster, a suburb of Buffalo. Thats one of the things I loved the most. Im definitely going to be coming here again.
She found out about the competition by word of mouth, as did the majority of contestants. To get more people interested, Ms. Brennan said, letters were sent to instructors at institutions such as Juilliard and the University of Rochesters Eastman School of Music.
Although the competitors were from all corners of the globe Russia, China, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Bulgaria, Canada and the United States many study at schools in New York or Canada.
Raisa Kagramanova, a 25-year-old from Moscow, Russia, studies at Queens College in New York City. She found out about the competition online.
Playing is my major there, she said. I started playing at 8 years old.
While there was not a whole lot of time to relax during the competition, the community and the contestants were encouraged to get to know each other. Many village residents opened their homes so piano players would not have to pay for hotels. On Friday, the Chopin Society organized a picnic to allow the piano players to socialize.
We want it to be a cooperative atmosphere, Ms. Brennan said. We want them to get to know each other, which is unusual for a competition.
Contestants are judged a little on technical skills and a lot on how much heart goes into the music.
Theyre looking for people who can express what the composer meant and be able to communicate that to the audience, Ms. Brennan said.
The new prize, the audience favorite, went to Noah Landers, 15, Carthage, in the junior division, and to Veselin Ninov, 21, Pleven, Bulgaria, in the senior division.
In the junior division, David Chen, 11, Waterloo, Ontario, snagged second place, while Duo Xu, 16, Buffalo, placed third. There was no first-place award given.
In the senior division, Yi-Yang Chen, 22, Taipei, Taiwan, won first place. Silvie Cheng, 21, Ottawa, Ontario, and Long Ma, 24, Beijing, China, tied for second place. Third place went to Susan Zhang, 23, Augusta, Ga.