64 Parishes

Current Issue

Hitting All the Right Notes

The Wideman International Piano Competition is music to the ears

Hitting All the Right Notes

Photo by Harry Butler

2018 Wideman International Piano Competition winner Dominic Muzzi.

Every first weekend in December, Shreveport’s Centenary College hosts a tournament in which all the best players sit on the bench.

The Wideman International Piano Competition, launched in 1950, was the brainchild of Nena Plant Wideman, a Centenary College music teacher, and is now under the direction of Dr. Lester Senter Wilson, a former Wideman competitor who went on to become both an internationally recognized pianist and an acclaimed opera singer.

The sheer number of outstanding piano pupils under Wideman’s skilled tutelage who wanted to play with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, then under the conductorship of Dr. John Shenaut, was the impetus for the competition.

Auditions were held in the form of a recital, and later, under the sponsorship of the Shreveport Symphony Guild, it evolved into the Wideman competition.

Thirty-five to forty students compete annually, drawn from all over the world and representing every major conservatory in the United States. Because the primary goal of the competition is to help these talented young people prepare for future competitions, many of them have to learn more than the sheet music at hand.

“You don’t come out in shredded blue jeans to play in a competition,” said Wilson. “You have to learn how to audition, what to wear, how to walk on stage, how to acknowledge the audience, how to bow.”

Wilson’s mentorship doesn’t end when the competition is completed and the medals have been awarded.

“This is my joy and love,” she said. “My husband and I don’t have children, so I’m like the old lady who lives in a shoe, who has so many pianists, she doesn’t know what to do!”

The 2019 Wideman International Piano Competition will be held November 30 through December 2 at Centenary College. The first two days are free and open to the public, with payment required for attending the final day of the competition, during which six to eight finalists will vie for the gold medal. With the holiday hubbub and stress swirling around outside, what better way to relax and unwind than to sit back and listen to beautiful music performed by some of the world’s most gifted young musicians at the start of their careers?

Vona Weiss is a freelance writer whose work includes magazine articles, essays, and short stories. As a former AP calculus teacher, she spent many years facing a room full of teenagers before opting for something only slightly less terrifying: a blank computer screen and a looming deadline. Vona lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, with her husband, Jeff, where she spends much of her time trying to keep her crayons in order, her desk clean, and the angry villagers at bay.