The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is a big deal, a very big deal. Many people consider it the premier piano competition in the world, while almost everyone else places it in the top two with the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition.

It was in 1958 that a 23-year-old Texan, Van Cliburn, stunned the world by winning the Tchaikovsky Competition. At the height of the Cold War, no one anticipated that an American could win that prestigious event.

Of course, Cliburn went on to become, perhaps, the world's most famous pianists, performing for presidents, royalty and audiences around the globe. While a student at The University of Texas at Austin, I was privileged to attend a Cliburn concert in the spring of 1969. The event started rather late and Cliburn was in his first number when there was a gasp from the audience below (I was in the balcony). All of a sudden, Cliburn stopped and began playing Hail to the Chief as President Lyndon Johnson, out of the White House only a couple months, Lady Bird Johnson and their daughter Linda Johnson Robb took their seats. I believe it was the former president's first public outing since leaving office. After the audience settled down, Cliburn began his piece over. He was thrilling.

After Cliburn won the Tchaikovsky Competition, Irl Allison, founder of the National Guild of Piano Teachers, announced he would start a similar Cliburn competition, with a top prize of $10,000. The first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was in 1962 and it has been held every four years since then.

The competition began on May 25 with 21 men and nine women from 12 countries and Hong Kong.

After two and a half weeks, this year's Cliburn Competition -- the 15th -- concluded June 10 with the naming of Yekwon Sunwoo, 28, of South Korea as the gold medal winner. He won with his performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. It is considered one of the most technically challenging piano concertos.

The Cliburn Competition finals -- which featured six pianists -- were viewed online and in movie theaters by 4.6 million people in 169 countries.

The Cliburn silver medal went to Kenneth Broberg, 23, and the bronze medal went to Daniel Hsu, 19. Both are Americans.

Sunwoo is the first South Korean to win the Cliburn Competition. Out of the 30 competitors, five were from South Korea. After his performance, he termed is "refreshing."

Sunwoo was born in Anyang, South Korea, and, beginning in 2005, he studied with Seymour Lipkin at The Curtis Institute of Music, where he received Rachmaninoff Prize in Piano. He later studied with Robert McDonald and earned his Master's degree at The Juilliard School, where he won the Munz Scholarship Competition and received the Arthur Rubinstein Prize. He currently works with Richard Goode at Mannes College The New School for Music.

He has performed with symphonies throughout America and around the world. Sunwoo released his first solo album in 2014 on the Fontec label.

In winning the Gold Medal, Sunwoo received a $50,000 cash award, three years of career management and performance attire from Neiman Marcus.

All this is interesting, you ask, but how does it apply to me?

Here is where it gets particularly exciting. Yekwon Sunwoo, fresh off his Gold Medal win, will perform with our own Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 22. Wow, what an opportunity for area audiences to hear this amazing young pianist perform with our own outstanding orchestra. How lucky are we to have this fantastic opportunity?

The Brazos Valley Symphony's Music Director and Conductor Marcelo Bussiki attended this year's Cliburn Competition.

Sunwoo will perform the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor with the Brazos Valley Symphony. Also on the program for the symphony's 36th season opener will be Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3, Op. 56 in A minor, also known as "Scottish."

Although the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra recently performed the Rachmaninoff 3rd, Bussiki said, "I think that the audience would enjoy Mr. Sunwoo's rendition of that work. Also, performing the same concerto with which he won the competition makes his appearance with the [Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra] even more meaningful to our audience."

Bussiki said, "Being a 'Cliburn Orchestra' gives us priority booking with their artists for the next three years.

"Our Executive Director Mary Koeninger has this concert booked almost five months prior to the competition.

"The Van Cliburn is one of the premier piano competitions in the world, to get a date with the three winners, will be very difficult from this point on.

"But, more than anything else, we will be making music with one of the top pianists in the world, one who, over the span of three weeks, was tested in every aspect of his musical abilities."

Bussiki said, "Mr. Sunwoo gave a technically clean, mature, sincere and powerful rendition of the work. Our audience can expect to hear music making of the highest level coming from the Rudder Theatre stage.

"They will have a fabulous time."

The Oct. 22 concert will be at 5 p.m. in Rudder Theatre. Seating in the theatre is limited, so don't wait to get your tickets. Tickets for this concert are available by calling the symphony office at 979-696-6100. Later this summer, they will be on sale at the MSC Box Office.

Better yet, to ensure you get tickets to this concert, order your symphony season tickets now. They are available online at bvso.org for only $175 for adults and $65 for students. When ordering season tickets, be sure to add on a ticket to the popular holiday concert for only $18.75 for adults -- a 25 percent saving -- and $10 for children. And, be sure to make as generous a donation as possible to our Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra. Not many places of our size can boast of a symphony orchestra of this quality and it takes support from area residents to keep the quality going.

Arts scholarships

The Arts Council of Brazos Valley has doubled its scholarship fund and recently awarded $20,000 in arts scholarships to six local young artists.

With a lead gift donated by the late John Simek, The Arts Council awarded the inaugural Netta Jackson Simek Emerging Artist Scholarship to an innovative female artist.

On June 6, The Arts Council Board of Directors awarded scholarships to:

• Ashley Konderla of Bryan High School who will attend the University of North Texas, $5,000 Netta Jackson Simek Emerging Artist Scholarship.

• Yanichka Ariunbold of A&M Consolidated High School who will attend Stanford University, $3,000 Arts Council College Arts Scholarship.

• Isabela Cruz-Vespa of A&M Consolidated High School who will attend Bard College in New York, $3,000 Arts Council College Arts Scholarship.

• Madeline Miller of A&M Consolidated High School who will attend Chapman University in California,$3,000 Arts Council College Arts Scholarship.

• Josey Meyer of A&M Consolidated High School who will attend Texas A&M University, $3,000 Arts Council College Arts Scholarship.

• Caleb Duane of Bryan High School who will attend Texas A&M University, $3,000 Arts Council College Arts Scholarship.

Since 2010, The Arts Council has awarded more than $50,000 in scholarship funds to deserving Brazos Valley high school seniors pursuing a degree and career in the arts.

Funding for The Arts Council's College Arts Scholarship program is made possible by the generosity of local supporters, many of whom give to the program during the annual Celebrate the Arts event each September. Lead program donors include Coleen and Jay Bradfield, Pam and Bob Smits, Denise Bermudez and the Willard and Anne Levin Foundation.

Ongoing music

The 47th annual Round Top Music Festival continues through July 16.

The remaining schedule includes:

• Monday, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Young Artists Chamber Music Concert. Free.

• Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, James VanDemark -- Double Bass Masterclass. Free.

• Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Daniel Gilbert -- Clarinet Masterclass. Free.

• Thursday, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Emilio Colon -- Cello Masterclass. Free.

• Saturday, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Reeds Galore! featuring music by Jacques François Antoine Marie Ibert, Henri Dutilleux, Alexandre Tansman, Claude Debussy and Jean Francaix. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• Saturday, 3:30 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, Chamber Music Concert featuring music by Maurice Ravel and Ludwig van Beethoven. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• Saturday, 7:30 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, 2017 Texas Festival Orchestra conducted by Linus Lerner, featuring music by Maurice Ravel. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• June 26, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Young Artists Chamber Music Concert. Free.

• June 27, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Regis Pasquier -- Violin Masterclass. Free.

• June 28, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Susan Dubois -- Viola Masterclass. Free.

• June 29, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Ransom Wilson -- Flute Masterclass. Free.

• July 1, 1:30 P.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Francois Dumont Piano Recital featuring the music of Maurice Ravel. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• July 1, 3:30 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, Chamber Music Concert featuring the music of Alexandre Tansman, Max Bruch and Bohuslav Martinu. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• July 1, 7:30 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, 2017 Texas Festival Orchestra conducted by Yaniv Dinur featuring music by Gioachino Rossini, Johannes Brahms and Antonín Dvorák. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• July 2, 3 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, 2017 Texas Festival Orchestra featuring pianist James Dick conducted by Yaniv Dinur, Patriotic Concert. $45 for adults, $10 for students.

• July 3, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Young Artists Chamber Music Concert. Free

• July 4, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Stephen Balderston -- Cello Masterclass. Free.

• July 5, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Christiano Rodrigues -- Violin Masterclass. Free.

• July 6, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Lydia Artymiw -- Piano Masterclass. Free.

• July 8, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel,Piano Galore!. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• July 8, 3:30 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, Chamber Music Concert featuring music by André Jolivet, Igor Stravinsky and Erwin Schulhoff. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• July 8, 7:30 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, 2017 Texas Festival Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Kulenovic featuring music by Joseph Schwantner and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• July 10, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Juon Kwuon -- Violin Masterclass. Free

• July 11, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Carol Wincenc -- Flute Masterclass. Free

• July 11, 7 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, Young Artists Chamber Music Program Competition.

• July 12, 1:30 p.m. in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel, Roger Myers -- Viola Masterclass. Free.

• July 12, 7 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, Young Artists Chamber Music Program Competition.

• July 14, 7 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, Winners Best of Chamber Music Program. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

July 15, 1:30 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, Percussion Showcase. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• July 15, 3:30 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, Closing Chamber Music Concert featuring music of Maurice Ravel and Johannes Brahms. $25 for adults, $10 for students.

• July 15, 7:30 p.m. in Festival Concert Hall, 2017 Texas Festival Orchestra featuring pianist James Dick, conducted by Christian Arming featuring music by Frédéric Chopin and Maurice Ravel. $40 for adults, $10 for students.

Items for Arts Watch should be emailed to robert.borden@theeagle.com. Deadline is noon Tuesday before the weekend you want it to run.

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