'Arts and culture play a vital role': Piano Competition increases reach 


The world-renowned Leeds International Piano Competition (LIPC) has defied challenges posed by the pandemic to deliver its biggest-ever competition, with the Piano Trail launching tomorrow (Saturday).

The international travel ban compelled LIPC organisers to rapidly switch the first round in January to online performances only. But using digital technology had the benefit of being able to include many more locations than usual around the world, extending the opportunity to more young pianists: 17 cities - from London to Ljubljana  - hosted online auditions compared to only three in the original plan.

The University is the Principal Partner of the Competition and the second round and semi-finals will be held on the campus on Steinway pianos. The School of Music gained ‘All-Steinway School’ status in 2017.

The 22 pianists who have made it to the second round are from 19 countries across the world, including the UK, Peru and South Korea.

The Competition has also broadened its reach locally through the city-wide Piano Trail, offering more drop-in performances than ever before, a range of talks and concerts, and activities partnering with local community groups.

Six paid internships providing hugely valuable opportunities to Leeds students are offered this year, in roles across the Competition, including digital communications and project management.   

The arts are, and will continue to be, key to our stability and hope for the future during challenging times.

Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds

Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds and Trustee of the Leeds International Piano Competition said: “Extending the reach of the Competition globally and locally is important so that more people than ever have access to the wonderful opportunities presented by the Competition.

“Arts and culture play a vital role in higher education and in society as a whole. Experiencing the arts - and perhaps in particular the performing arts -  encourages us to reflect, debate, and often to practise mindfulness.

“The arts are, and will continue to be, key to our stability and hope for the future during challenging times. The Competition is a cornerstone of the city’s artistic offer. As we prepare for Leeds 2023 Year of Culture, I look forward to the University continuing to play a major role in the cultural life of the city.”

Those unable to attend the live events can watch live online through medici.tv. Over a million people worldwide were reached through Medici in the 2018 competition.

Opportunities for students

Lydia Hutton (main picture) is studying for an MA in Music and Music Psychology and is working as a marketing intern at LIPC.

She said: “Having the opportunity to become part of the team here at the Leeds has been such a wonderful experience.

“Being able to gain practical experience in such a professional and prestigious organisation has enabled me to develop my skills within marketing communications and so much more that will no doubt aid me in my future career in the field.”

Vaiva Paulauskaite is a Philosophy, Politics and Economics student and a Link to Leeds ambassador. 
She said: “I have been on an exciting journey of working at the Leeds International Piano Competition as Campaigns Coordinator on my year in industry.

“My main motivation was to discover myself and have the opportunity to try out a field I was interested in working as a graduate. I feel so much gratitude for all the things I learned in the organisation and can’t wait to apply that to my ongoing studies.” 

Opportunities on campus

Leeds University Union is part of the Piano Trail and will host a piano adapted by artist Colin Frank, and a sculpture ‘Pianola Nova - Pianola 1’ from Edinburgh collective, Pianodrome.

Frank’s piano is inspired by musician John Cage and has bolts and screws between its strings to alter the sound. Portholes into the piano expose the interior mechanisms and sound-activated LED lights make the instrument respond colourfully to how people play it.   

The sculpture is a technologically-enhanced upright piano connected to another in Edinburgh. It has been constructed in collaboration with Edinburgh University Creative Informatics department and Tinderbox Collective.

Further information

The second round takes place from 8-10 September and the semi-finals from 12-14 September, both at the Great Hall at the University of Leeds.   

The finals take place from 17-18 September at Leeds Town Hall.

Visit the Leeds Piano Competition website for tickets and further information.

Main picture: Lydia Hutton, MA Music & Psychology student and intern at LIPC, playing the Piano Trail piano at Leeds University Union. Credit: University of Leeds.

For press enquiries about the University as Principal Partner of the competition, contact Prue Griffiths in the Press Office at the University of Leeds by email on p.griffiths@leeds.ac.uk.
For press enquiries about the Competition, contact Elizabeth Townsend by email on elizabeth.townsend@premiercomms.com.