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Posted on Sun, Jun. 06, 2004
 
 I M A G E S 
Winner Paul Anthony Romero of California congratulates second-place finisher Averill Piers Baker of Canada after the Amateur Cliburn jury announced its selections at TCU's Ed Landreth Auditorium.
STAR-TELEGRAM/TOM PENNINGTON
Winner Paul Anthony Romero of California congratulates second-place finisher Averill Piers Baker of Canada after the Amateur Cliburn jury announced its selections at TCU's Ed Landreth Auditorium.
Paul Anthony Romero performs Saturday in the final round of the Amateur Cliburn at Texas Christian University.
STAR-TELEGRAM/TOM PENNINGTON
Paul Anthony Romero performs Saturday in the final round of the Amateur Cliburn at Texas Christian University.

California composer wins Cliburn prize




Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Paul Anthony Romero sat at the grand piano, heart pounding, muscles powering through a Liszt composition before a rapt crowd of 1,000 music lovers. It was his rare moment in the spotlight, and he was thinking: "I wonder what that lady in the audience is whispering to her friend? I wonder if my arms will make it through this? I wonder if they like it ..."

Romero needn't have worried. The 38-year-old composer and porcelain dealer from Southern California took first place in the Cliburn Foundation's Fourth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs on Saturday at Texas Christian University.

Romero bested 71 other amateur pianists from 26 states and Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, South Africa and Venezuela. He wins $2,000, a recital date in Washington, D.C., and a pair of custom spurs.

Averill Piers Baker, a 60-year-old cancer survivor and the wife of a Canadian senator, won second place.

Ann Herlong, 74, a homemaker and lifetime piano player from Rock Hill, S.C., took third. Herlong, with her sweet disposition and grandmotherly countenance, was an audience favorite.

Renowned pianist Van Cliburn of Fort Worth praised the competitors for their zeal.

"I think it is fantastic to have so many people coming from all over the world to play and to discuss the great literature of classical music that we have as a legacy," Cliburn said before handing out the awards at Ed Landreth Auditorium.

The Amateur Cliburn, as it is commonly known, is arguably the most prestigious amateur piano competition in the world.

Even so, Romero says it won't change his life. He has no plans to become a professional performer.

"I wouldn't want it as a career," Romero said. "It's too hard. The discipline, the nerve-wracking pressure. I prefer the anonymity of being in the composer's booth."

Still, he practices for many hours every week, as do all of the Amateur Cliburn competitors. But when he's not stunning friends and family with Rachmaninoff or Liszt, Romero is composing music for independent movies, documentaries, TV commercials and computer games, including the popular Everquest and Heroes of Might and Magic. Romero also collects and deals in antique porcelain.

The 2004 Amateur Cliburn winner can be considered a "professional amateur." Not only does he work in the music business, but he has won amateur competitions in Paris, Washington, D.C., and Colorado, and audiences may remember his second-place finish in the 2002 Amateur Cliburn.

"The performers are astonishing," said audience member Mattie Peterson Compton. "You can't tell that they do something else by day. They must not need much sleep."

The Winners List

First: Paul Anthony Romero, $2,000, custom spurs and a recital at Hirshorn Museum in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates.

Second: Averill Piers Baker, $1,500 cash

Third: Ann Herlong, $1,000 cash

Best performance of a Baroque work: Ann Herlong, $250

Best performance of a Classical work: Hiroko Ohtani, $250

Best performance of a Romantic-era work: Paul Anthony Romero, $250

Best performance of a modern work: Miho Yamada Fisher, $250

Most creative program award: Darin Tysdal, $250

Jury Discretionary awards: Miho Yamada Fisher and Franz Josef Mantini, $250

Press jury award: Paul Anthony Romero, Peters Bros. Western hat

Audience award: Paul Anthony Romero, Justin Brands boots

Fort Worth Piano Teachers Forum Award: Stephen Fierros


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