In 1976, a 21-year-old pianist named Douglas Humpherys was the very first Gold Medal winner of the first Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition.
"I look back and think, it was probably easier to win that year," joked Humpherys.
Since then, approximately 3,500 pianists have competed in what has become one of the highest regarded piano competitions in the world, with more than $430,000 in prize money awarded and countless careers launched. And it has launched one career further than before.
Humpherys, concert pianist and chair of the piano department at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, has just been named artistic director of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation.
Humphery succeeds Paul Pollei, who had led the competition and foundation since its inception, and who will retain the title of Founder and Artistic Director, Emeritus.
Pollei has been on hiatus due to health and was not available to speak, but Humphreys, who has been a juror in the competition 14 times, said he hoped to fulfill the goals set forth by Pollei.
"This was all his vision," Humpherys said. "He is a music ambassador for the world. He brought the world of pianists to Salt Lake City."
Chase Kimball, an attorney for the Salt Lake City-based Lewis Hansen law firm and member of the board of directors for nearly a decade, said that Humpherys is a worthy successor. "We felt the best fit was Douglas Humpherys," Kimball said. "He’s a long-time friend of the Bachauer Foundation. We’re confident of a strong future with Douglas Humpherys as artistic director.
Nathan Morgan, President and CEO of Salt Lake City-based Continental Bank Corporation, is treasurer of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation and said Humpherys was "head and shoulders over the competition" when it came time to replace the retiring Pollei. Although Humpherys will continue on the faculty of the acclaimed Eastman School of Music, Morgan said that the Utah Symphony is not suffering because the symphony’s artistic director, Thierry Fischer, spends time during the year in his native Switzerland. "I don’t see the Bachauer Foundation missing a step."
A Steinway Artist, Humpherys had advanced degrees from Juilliard School and the Eastman School of Music, and his concert career has spanned more than 35 years across the world, including experience as a frequent guest artist in Beijing, having performed at the National Center for the Performing Arts, the Beijing Concert Hall, and the Forbidden City Concert Hall. He has also taught master classes at most of the major conservatories in China.
The Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition began as the Brigham Young University Summer Piano Festival and International Competition hosted by Brigham Young University from 1976 to 1980.
The name of Gina Bachauer was given to the competition in honor of the Greek pianist who appeared with Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony in concert during eight subscription concerts.
In 1980, the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition relocated to Salt Lake City under the patronage of the Utah Symphony.
The competitions are divided into three categories based on age, and the three competitions are part of a four-year cycle of events which occur during the month of June.
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