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May 31, 2011

Ellicott City doctor wins Van Cliburn Competition for amateur pianists

Christopher Shih, a gastroenterologist in Ellicott City, won the sixth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs presented by the Van Cliburn Foundation on Sunday in Fort Worth. He competed in a field of 70 amateur pianists from 10 countries. The first prize is $2,000, but the high profile of the competition is worth a good deal more. Dr. Shih also won the Audience Award and Best Performance of a Work from the Romantic Era.

Dr. Shih, who has degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, is a partner with the Maryland Digestive Disease Center, a division of Capital Digestive Care. He has won prizes at several other amateur competitions. Before embarking on a medical career, he competed in the tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The doctor recently gave a pre-competition recital for the Candlelight Concert Society at Howard Community College.

The International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, was the first of its kind in the U.S. when it was established in 1999. It is open to pianists age 35 and older who do not make their living from playing or teaching the piano. Those competing in 2011 represented a wide variety of professions, from lawyer and architect to retired dancer and Formula One race car designer.

Here's an example of Dr. Shih's remarkable musicianship, filmed at another event for amateur pianists:

Posted by Tim Smith at 6:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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