After two weeks of grueling competition among 39 contestants from 24 nations, the Washington state native took the gold medal prize of $30,000 in the 30th Gina Bachauer International Artists Piano Competition in Salt Lake City. A 10-member international jury awarded him the honor after a supercharged, 50-minute performance of Sergei Prokofiev's Concerto No. 3 in C Major on Friday night at Abravanel Hall.
"I am not going to practice today. . . . I don't have to perform before an international jury," Beus said in a phone interview Saturday. "The pressure is off, and it's a nice feeling."
Did he have any doubts about his chance of winning?
"Of course," Beus said. "There's always doubt when competing against some of the best [young pianists] in the world."
But this is not the first Bachauer win for mild-mannered Beus - in 1996, he took the top prize in Bachauer's junior competition.
The 24-year-old said he felt good about his performances throughout the competition. When he is playing, the venue and his uncertainty melt away. He becomes one with the music, he explained.
With the competition over, Beus is ready for some downtime. But first, he has an LDS fireside performance in Layton over the July Fourth holiday. Then he is heading south to Provo, where he will spend a week with brother David and sister Rebecca - both students at Brigham Young University.
Next stop: a performance in Lisbon, Portugal, before returning to his graduate studies at The Juilliard School in New York.
Joanne Kuttler, Beus' maternal grandmother, says his musical talent is a "gift from the Lord." She acknowledged she would never second-guess the jury, but she is pleased jurors, too, rated her grandson's performance on Friday night near or at the top.
"They all [six finalists] played wonderful," Kuttler said; then, speaking like a doting grandmother, she added, "To me, Stephen is the best."
Kuttler, who lives in College Station, Texas, was joined by other family members, friends and fellow missionaries in constituting an enthusiastic Beus' fan club among the audience in Abravanel Hall.
Beus has served a mission to Finland for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Currently, his parents, Glenn and Kathy Beus, are fulfilling an LDS mission in Russia.
Born in Othello, Wash., Beus, the fourth of eight children, began playing piano at an early age. His mother, Kathy, a trained pianist, gave piano lessons.
Beus started playing piano by ear at age 2, and at 5 he began taking lessons. Four years later, he made his first orchestral debut playing Mozart's Concerto in A Major.
From that time, Beus has performed concertos by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev with orchestras in the United States and Europe.
Beus says he dislikes competing but enjoys the competitions because they push him to work harder to improve his playing.
"I enjoy studying and performing because great music, played well, has the power to be a truly fulfilling part of life," Beus said. "By studying, practicing and developing myself as an artist and human being, I hope to be able to show audiences the profound beauty I experience through music."
Other Gina Bachauer winners
$15,000 silver medal/plus a $500 jury prize: Takashi Yamamoto, Japan
$10,000 bronze medal: Vadym Kholodenko, Ukraine
$8,000 fourth prize: Hinrich Alpers, Germany
$7,000 fifth prize: Jue Wang, China
$6,000 sixth prize: Ka-ling Colleen Lee, Hong Kong