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Frances Allen’s Desert Roundup—After Tuneful Black & White Gala, Waring Piano Competition Begins March 26

Peggy Cravens, president of the Waring International Piano Competition

Posted: Friday, March 3, 2017 – 12:42 PM

Even the firebrand 18th Century theologian, Jonathon Edwards, recognized that “The best, most beautiful, most perfect way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other is by music.”

This sentiment is part of the foundation of the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, which since 1978, has been a Desert host for aspiring young classical pianists from around the world in a bi-annual competition which launched many significant concert careers.

The competition began when College of the Desert pianist and music teacher Joanna Hodges organized an event with the goal of providing young pianists with performance opportunities. To this end, the competition, held in Palm Desert, rewards winners with recital and concerto dates at prestigious concert venues throughout the United States and Europe.

There are three levels of participation: juniors (age 12 and under); intermediate (13 through 17) and seniors (18 through 35); with each contestant participating in both solo and concerto rounds as well as performing at master classes in each age category.

By 2001, however, the competition had become moribund, but thanks to the dedication of internationally renowned pianist Virginia (Mrs. Fred) Waring, the competition was reorganized and renamed in her honor.

As can be imagined, while housing, transportation, board and other services are provided to the contestants by a large group of local volunteers and donors, the cost of producing it is substantial so, though the competition is held every other year, the Black & White Gala is now an annual event to raise the necessary funds for the event.

This year’s formal gala was extra exciting; 2017 is an odd-numbered year, meaning it’s a competition year with 32 senior contestants between the ages of 18 and 30 coming from all parts of the world to compete.

Most of the competition’s free of charge events are held at the Indian Wells Theater on the Palm Desert campus of Cal State. Competition week begins Sunday, March 26, with daytime and evening sessions with the final performance being held on April 2 with the Concerto Finals & Winners’ Concert at the McCallum. Tickets for this event can be purchased at the McCallum.

Any gala needs an honoree, or two, and this year’s honoree’s position went to Desert philanthropists Jan and Richard Oliphant, whose commitment to improving the quality of life for all Valley residents, were recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the lovely Peggy Cravens, president of the Waring International Piano Competition.

Drs. Sharon Brown-Welty and John Welty chaired the gala which featured dancing to the music of Doc Poster & His Orchestra and one incredible guest artist: Sarah Tuan, the 2015 junior 1st place solo winner (at age 12).

Information about how you can nurture the paths of gifted young pianists from around the world is at 760-773-2575.

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