2020 SydInternationalPianoComp

Three Alumni in the Sydney International Piano Competition!


Published: 26/05/2020 10:00am

We have some great alumni news to share with you all this week!

The Sydney International Piano Competition (which runs once every four years) recently announced the names of the 32 competitors who will compete in their next event.

Of the three Australian’s chosen to compete, we are proud that each one of them is a Sydney Eisteddfod alumnus!

It is a wonderful achievement by these pianists, Tony Lee, Calvin Abdiel and Kevin Chow who will compete in the competition amongst a small pool of international contestants from countries including Canada, Hungary, Ukraine, China, Switzerland, France, Italy, Russia, Japan, Korea, Uzbekistan and Brazil.

Originally to have taken place in July this year, the 12th iteration of the Sydney International Piano Competition, has been postponed to take place sometime in 2021 due to Covid-19.

All three seasoned players are Sydney Eisteddfod royalty, Tony was the Winner of our Piano Scholarship in 2010, Kevin was the Winner in 2017 and Calvin was a Finalist just last year!

We managed to catch up with two out of the three pianists, Tony and Calvin, to hear all about it as well as what else they’ve been doing during their time in isolation.

What was your reaction when you found out you had been chosen to take part in this prestigious competition?


“I was very happy to be notified of my acceptance into the Sydney Competition. As a young boy I would attend the recitals from previous editions of competition and be really inspired.

I loved the variety of styles and personalities of all the different pianists. It is always such a treat for the local music lovers to be able to experience this showcase of talent every four years, so I’m very excited to be part of the upcoming Sydney Competition”.


“I was ecstatic! I had been planning and hoping to participate in this competition for well over a year at the time of receiving the news.

The pre-selection stage is the most daunting because you are ranked amongst hundreds of applicants.

The Sydney International Piano Competition is one of the most prestigious music competitions in the world, and I’m extremely grateful to have been selected for it”.

Have you managed to find ways to continue to perform whilst this crisis is underway?


There is an ongoing trend at the moment, with many musicians turning to live broadcast concerts from their own homes. It is certainly an interesting phenomenon, showing how artists are adapting and perhaps even flourishing, under the circumstances.

I am taking the vast amounts of time now, a luxury which I’ve always missed, to focus on further developing myself as a musician. Learning new music, practicing, reading, contemplating... in some ways it is a blessing”.


“As musicians, it’s especially important that we comfort each other with our music during this difficult crisis.

I’m thinking of recording little performances - online ‘soirees’ perhaps - to send to my family and friends (maybe even to share on social media). It could be anything, such as classical music, uplifting hymns, Indonesian songs (from my heritage) or even my own improvisations.

Even though it would be in a more informal setting than a concert hall, such performances could still offer hope and solace for all of us who are suffering during this crisis”.

What advice would give to young people who are disappointed that they are unable to compete this year?


“I would advise the people who have been preparing for the 2020 Festival, to be patient and to use the time to further develop their own personality.

Regardless of whether or not art is something you wish to have a career in, performing and competing is an extension of life, not the meaning of life”.


“It’s a disappointing year, especially for musicians as many events, competitions and concerts have been cancelled.

However, this crisis (although terrible) would be a good time for young musicians to work on their ‘passion projects’: for example, to learn repertoire that they have always wanted to learn but perhaps have not previously had the time or energy to do so...

It’s important that you keep growing as a person and as a musician.

Read books; study the history of important composers such as the first Viennese school (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven) or the trends in the visual arts occurring in the same time periods of the composers’ lives whose works you are studying.

When this crisis is over, hopefully we will all have evolved into more experienced, enlightened musicians, ready to share our artistry with the broader community when the opportunity comes along”.

The greatest piece of advice that you have ever heard or received?


"Since 2014, my mentor Maria João Pires, has been the biggest influence of my musical life. Upon hearing a colleague play Schubert, she advised:

“Don’t try, just be...”


“What matters is the process, not the result”.

Often times, we focus our attention only on winning or attaining something that the future may hold, instead of focusing on the here and now, exploring and questioning our musical approaches and developing our creativity in a broader sense as musicians and human beings". 

Inspiring words to remember from these two artists, especially at a time like now. 

Congratulations Tony, Calvin and Kevin for being chosen for this wonderful competition.

Best of luck!

[Header Photo: The 32 Competitiors, Credit: thesydney.com.au]