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The Covington Center had a house full of musicians from around the world on Thursday, April 7. Winners from the Ibla Grand Prize World Music Competitions made their way from New York to Radford University on their 14-day tour.
“In New York it was very windy and very gray. Here, when we came we were like ‘Oh! Summer!’” said one of the winners, Zuzana Simurdova, who caught a cold along the tour route because of the extreme weather differences in the US. “We went through the summer, winter, autumn and spring!”
The Ibla International Foundation, RU College of Visual and Performing Arts and the Department of Music hosted their annual Gala Concert for the winners of the 2010 Ibla International Grand Prize, the 2010 Bartok-Kabalevsky-Prokofiev and The 2010 Ibla Oslo Awards.
Ibla is an international music competition that takes place in Ragusa Ibla, Sicily every year. Ibla is the name of the southernmost province on the island of Sicily, where the competition has been held for 19 years.
Composers, pianists, singers and instrumentalists from all around the world compete for prizes and the chance at a grand American tour.
“It was nice because they offered…a tour…so you can see the world and play different kinds of halls and make contacts,” said Finnish pianist and contest winner Maria Minnikko.
All of the winners are invited to go on tour at highly distinguished venues, such as Carnegie Hall in New York.
“It was beautiful…it’s quite inspirational,” Simurdova said about her first visit to Carnegie Hall. “You can get lots of inspiration from that place.”
Pianist Simurdova, from the Czech Republic, was happy to play beautiful Frédéric Chopin pieces on the classical piano, but said she was happier that she was touring.
“I was very happy but I was more happy that they were choosing me for [the tour],” Simurdova said.
Only two days before, the group of seven musicians were in New York playing alongside the world famous Oslo Symphony Orchestra.
“It’s not my own recital, but it’s a very unforgettable experience because we are able to get [an] opportunity to play [at] a venue that Yo Yo Ma [has played],” said contest winner and pianist Ivon Lin.
Every year RU hosts a concert for the winners of the contest. Former chair of the music department, Dr. Fellin, serves on the board that organizes the competition for Ibla.
“Dr. Fellin being here opened up the door for Radford to host them,” said RU Department of Music’s Administrative Assistant Shannon Dillon.
Dillon was busy running around all day before the event to make sure everything was running smoothly and that the musicians were where they were supposed to be.
“It’s a real amazing competition,” Dillon said. “The diversity is great. I mean the diversity is great because you have vocalists, percussionists, pianists, and…an accordion player.”
Dillon goes to Sicily every year to work at the competition.
“I mean, who doesn’t mind spending two weeks in Italy?” Dillon said.
Hours before the event, all of the musicians were getting the last hours of practice in before they stepped on stage. Some of them were even getting in some rest since the tour is nonstop.
“I go back teaching…but first I will rest,” Mannikko laughed. “First thing I will do is go to a sauna.
Although the performers were tired, all of them were impressed by Radford and happy that the pace is a lot slower than New York City.
“I really like Radford because it reminds me of Europe…It’s quite relaxing and I can enjoy the time and to have everything slow down,” Lin said. “It’s very important for us because we are learning and performing the arts.”
Lin, a IBLA Oslo award winner from Taiwan, got into music at the age of four because of his father’s large classical music collection.
“[It’s] one of the reasons why I was so into music and why I was interested in the sound…you get to know the color and the sound and the atmosphere [and] the emotion of the moment,” Lin said.
Lin has won many competitions but he said never has he won such a big competition as the Greek International Piano Competition in Oslo, Norway.
Mannikko, a classical pianist and piano teacher, was rehearsing for hours in a practice room in Porterfield Hall.
“You have a beautiful performance hall here,” Mannikko said of the Covington Center. “I was really impressed.”
Although her parents couldn’t come to America to see Minnikko tour, her mother still calls her almost everyday asking how her concert went.
“We’re making friends,” Lin said. “Even [though] the competition is quite competitive…we still like to share the music, but not fighting with each other or making like a stress environment. However, we do [like] to play on the stage. Competition is competition but that is stage.”