Two-Octave span: Hilton Head Island hospitality reaches around the world.

The annual Hilton Head International Piano Competition, March 4 through 9 at First Presbyterian Church, is extraordinary in every way.  One of the leading classical piano events in the United States, the Competition reaches farther around the globe, and deeper into the homes of Hilton Head Island residents, than any other occasion.

For visitors and Hilton Head Island residents alike, it is an unmatched chance to enjoy virtuoso performances on the eve of the artists’ worldwide prominence.  The Competition prompts some of the finest young classical music talents in the world to do what smart visitors do every year – travel to Hilton Head Island for our unique blend of world-class resort and sincere personal welcome.  The way the Hilton Head International Piano Competition is organized exemplifies the best of what Hilton Head Island has to offer.

Now in it’s 18thyear, the competition advances the excellence and helps foster the future of classical performance by showcasing young musicians, and by creating a climate that motivates their best efforts.  Personal

The only ones who know what it is like, young piano virtuosos enjoy each other’s company.

coaching from the panel of first-class international judges, and the opportunity to move forward with additional performance opportunities are more reasons why a seat at the Steinway here is so sought-after.

Competition Director Mona Huff points out that these concert pianists from around the world are a lot like other young visitors to Hilton Head Island. They like to spend time with each other.  Classical piano turns out to be a

Fei-Fei Dong tests the keyboard. She likes it!

somewhat smaller world than one might expect, true of many elite circles.  And the up-and-coming talents know each other, or at least know about each other.  Inside the international gathering it is heartwarming to see how glad they are to meet, or reunite, and to help each other even as they compete, Ms. Huff says.  Sometimes competitors send their own students back to Hilton Head Island when their careers move them on into teaching.

The company of each other is a big attraction to these young, world-class musicians.  But it is the warmth of the Hilton Head Island families who host them that creates the deepest bonds.  These relationships live on and span the globe.  Hilton Head Island families pick competitors up at the airport, house them – and often become lasting friends with the young musicians and their families.  Host families have flown to Europe and beyond to meet the families of their guest competitors and to see them perform again.  Host Mike Kalody was invited to China to meet the family – – and he went!  The parents of competitor Arianna Körting came to Hilton Head Island – – and bought a home!

Action testing on the Steinway at First Presbyterian is an important – but informal – part of Competition week.

The depth of care and detail of arrangements that are made for each visiting competitor begins as soon as they are selected – from factoring for language proficiency to accommodating pet allergies.  As a result, competitors tell their friends in the classical music world about Hilton Head Island hospitality, and urge them to apply for the Hilton Head International Piano Competition.

Performing before top judges from as far away as Hungary, Columbia and Korea, as well as the United States, the young musicians vie for substantial cash prizes as well as distinction.  Twenty competitors and 10 alternates are

Zhu Wang, winner of the 2011 Young Artists Competition.

selected by a separate panel of judges from among the finest young talent from around the world.  The attractiveness of Hilton Head Island has been the spur for distinguished participants at every level – from selectors to participants to judges.

The jury this year is composed of distinguished teachers from as far as Shanghai Conservatory, as near as Northwestern University and as famous as The Julliard School.  Next year’s panel holds judges from Ireland, China, Columbia and Russia, as well as the U.S.

This is how Hilton Head Island is heard around the world.  This is how music overcomes boundaries in a moment and forges friendships for life.  The Hilton Head International Piano Competition is an exquisite example of the warmth, depth and excellence that await behind our beautiful beaches and beneath our graceful palm trees.