“What I like about the Crescendo International Competition,” explains Graham Blank, vice president at Tom Lee Music in Toronto, “is that it’s more participatory than competitive. And while it certainly remains a competition, every performer receives valuable feedback from the adjudicators and is graded against themselves — and therefore, everyone is a winner to a certain degree.”

This is far from snowflake speak: Crescendo’s single-round competition permits young participants to perform a piece of music and then receive immediate feedback and adjudication, allowing each pianist to focus on their own strengths and weaknesses in the prime of their development rather than wallow in the distraction of winning and losing. At the end of the competition, an individual’s score determines his or her award — a first, second, third prize, or honorable mention. An honors recital follows, with those who receive a first or second prize being invited to perform at a recital at New York’s Carnegie Hall. 


The day before the Carnegie recital, a group of 60 young performers and their families and another group of 60 performers and their families from Steinway Piano Gallery Toronto and Ottawa visited the New York Steinway Factory in Astoria, thanks to Tom Lee Music Canada. 

“We had families who took the tour the previous year,” says Blank, “and then bought a Steinway over the course of the year. Students absolutely love the tour.” 

Blank notes that the iconic rim-bending station was a highlight of the tour, “naturally,” along with other stations that permit the students to really get close up to the sawdust, skill, and sweat that go into crafting a Steinway.

“From my perspective,” says Blank, “the best thing about the tour is that you really start to grasp the craftsmanship involved in creating the instrument. When you first visit the factory, you often go with the perception that Steinways are very expensive. And then when you see a Steinway being built from the ground up, you realize they’re inexpensive given what goes into building one — it changes the whole equation from a value standpoint!”

One teacher brought fourteen students to the Selection Room, where they were given the opportunity to select four Steinway grand Model Bs for Tom Lee Music. Each student would play the same piece on two pianos and then all the students would vote on their favorite Steinway. 

“The kids really took it seriously,” Blank notes, “and learned a lot, I think, about the range of warmth and brightness that encompasses the Steinway Sound — and how to select a versatile instrument that also speaks to you.” 

Blank is quick to note that the four grands selected from that trip by Tom Lee Music have already been sold.

Visit crescendocompetition.org.  |  Visit steinwaycanada.ca.
photos: janice yi

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