The amateur competition is an offshoot of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, named for the legendary pianist who shot to fame after winning the first Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow in 1958, and was honored with a ticker-tape parade upon his return to New York.
Mays's 30-minute finals recital featured Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata and Liszt's "Mephisto" Waltz. His prizes include a $2,000 award, a pair of custom spurs and recital dates in Washington, D.C., and Laguna Beach, California. In addition to the top prize, Mays took the Audience Award (which comes with a pair of western boots) and honors for the best performance of a Romantic work.
Mark Fuller, a lawyer from Arizona, won second prize and a $1,500 cash award, plus the press jury award and honors for best performance of a post-Romantic work. Clark Griffth, a composer/retired IT administrator from Texas, placed third and won $1,000.
Also among the 25 semi-finalists were an electrical engineer, a homemaker, an architect and a financial consultant. Like professional competitions, many of the amateurs enter a number of times; many of the 2007 entrants participated in the 2004 event. This year's contestants hailed from 23 states and Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany and Switzerland.
The weeklong competition, held every three years at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, is open to contestants age 35 and older who don't earn their living teaching or playing the piano. The level of performance is high, although pianists are not penalized for minor glitches and can use sheet music.
Van Cliburn was on hand to award the trophys. The award ceremonies reportedly morphed into a concert when four jury members — Cliburn gold medalists Jos_ Feghali, Stanislav Ioudenitch, Olga Kern and Jon Nakamatsu — performed eight-hand piano music including arrangements of the Waltz from Gounod's Faust and Sousa's The Stars and Stripes Forever.