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Who would have thought that the wishes of a philanthropist would eventually lead to Calgary’s Honens International Piano Competition becoming one of the most globally prestigious classical piano contests for up-and-coming musicians? Yet it came to pass. Along with the tri-ennial competition, Honens also presents concerts by top classical pianists and a yearly festival of classical piano music.

“Esther Honen was the lady next door you would never have expected to launch a world-class competition,” says Michele Stanners with a smile. Honens vice president of advance and experience, she remembers the woman who started it all with a donation and a dream. Honens was inspired by attending the Van Cliburn piano competition in Fort Worth, Texas and she wanted to see something similar in Calgary.

The organizers that originally orchestrated the Honens piano competition were determined to create an excellent event. Honens now draws emerging pianists from all corners of the planet to vie for a $100,000 prize and to have their performances broadcast on CBC Radio 2 and streamed on the web via Medici.tv. But this is not what makes the Honens International Piano competition truly unique. “The advantage we have over all the other competitions is that we engage the laureates [winners] in a three-year artist development program to help them reach their aspirations,” explains Michele. Honens helps them find management for the business side of making music. Honens also has its own record label that releases the winning laureate performances on CD. These are available for sale on the Honens website, at CD stores and on digital download sites.

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