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Sunday June 6, 2004 2:47 p.m. Central Daylight Time

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It's a moonlighting sonata for Cliburn amateur pianists

09:52 PM CDT on Sunday, May 30, 2004

By SCOTT CANTRELL / The Dallas Morning News

They're not the nursery-rhyme butcher, baker and candlestick maker. But the pianists showing off their fortes this week at Texas Christian University's Ed Landreth Auditorium do have quite a range of day jobs.

Scot King, who opens the International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs at 1 p.m. Monday, is a mortgage broker from Lake Forest, Calif. His 73 competitors include an acupuncturist, a tennis coach, an architect and a whole raft of medical professionals.

Sponsored by the Van Cliburn Foundation, and not to be confused with the Cliburn's quadrennial competition for young professionals, this is the fourth amateur contest held in Fort Worth since 1999. It's limited to people 35 or older who don't make their livings as either pianists or piano teachers. Prizes, $2,000 tops, will be awarded Saturday evening.

But many contestants have had extensive training, and there will be a lot of accomplished playing. Some will even have a devil-may-care brilliance.

"These are people who have nothing to lose and everything to gain," says Michael Hawley, a media-studies professor at MIT who took a first prize in the 2002 amateur competition and is back as a judge. "There's an excitement and freshness that doesn't always come through professional performances."

Mr. Hawley contributed a riveting rendition of his own arrangement of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story in 2002. The most memorable performer in the last two contests was Debra Saylor, whose blindness made already poetic playing of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Debussy's Clair de lune deeply emotional experiences.

For tickets call 817-335-9000. Information at www.cliburn.org/page/42.

Daily coverage begins Tuesday in Overnight.

E-mail scantrell@dallasnews.com

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