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Posted on Thu, Jun. 03, 2004
 I M A G E S 
(Victor) DYNI
(Victor) DYNI
(Weiss) DODSON
(Weiss) DODSON
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The Amateur Cliburn

High Notes

Passion and pain

It's passion that keeps them playing and sometimes it's passion that causes them to stop.

Most of the competitors in the Amateur Cliburn studied piano in their youth, then slowly abandoned playing as they established families and careers. Others admit that they gave up in frustration.

Competitor Antoni Gryzik, a television engineer from France, says he once threw a piano out a window during a crisis of confidence.

Jose Mauro Peixoto, a stock portfolio manager from Sao Paulo, Brazil, quit playing for 28 years after being discouraged from making music a career. He only started again when a long-time friend asked him to play as a 40th birthday present.

Ellen Weiss Dodson, a mother of two and a health care marketing professional from Boston, says she stopped for 20 years simply for lack of time.

"I always had the passion for music. But I hid it from myself. I wouldn't go to symphonies or concerts because I felt embarrassed that it wasn't me up there playing."

Marketing 101

Competitors at the Amateur Cliburn say classical musicians need to do more to draw audiences in a country more tuned in to J-Lo than J.S. Bach.

The problem, they say, is that classical music isn't easy entertainment.

"It doesn't wash over you the way pop music does. It takes some thought. It's not instant gratification," says competitor Victor Dyni, a retired music librarian from Washington, D.C. "Americans want instant gratification. Just look at American Idol. They all want to be instant stars."

The answer: Hype, says competitor Victor Alexeeff, a Nova Scotia-born film composer.

"We don't do any marketing," Alexeeff says.

And since many school arts programs have been canceled, says competitor Henri Delbeau, a New York physician, "It's up to people like us to introduce more children to classical music by playing at schools and churches."

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