G Clef by Gina Heideman

Photo courtesy of Lisa Bush


is proud to present

The 2018 Festival for Creative Pianists

June 6-9, 2018

2018 Locations

Early bird applications will be accepted as of Sept. 1, 2017

Many New Prizes!

More Info

The piano festival is now under the auspices of Denver-based Abundant Silence, a not-for-profit 501c3 music publisher that promotes new music. Please show your appreciation and support by becoming a MEMBER.


Evelyn Billberg, Program Director
Dr. Arthur Houle, Artistic Director & Founder

"What you are attempting to do in your festival is most laudable, especially in eliminating as much as possible the 'winner take all' dynamic, and encouraging improvisation in both jazz and classical music."

-- Dave Brubeck (letter to Houle, 6/12/02)

Pianists up to age 19 as of 6/6/18 from anywhere in the world.
DEADLINE: 4/15/18 (or earlier if limit of 40 to 45 is reached)


Auditions and recordings are not necessary. Enrollment is open but limited to approx. 40 to 45: priority is given to earlier applicants. See application page.

Early applications are strongly encouraged. Early applications should not indicate repertory (repertory is required by May 15); non-refundable application fees will secure a place in the festival.

Repertory and Attendance Requirements:

For adjudications, students play up to 15 minutes of repertory - any style, for one, two, or three pianos (3rd piano contingent on space and availability). See also 30-minute PIANO ENSEMBLE option. After students perform, they receive constructive verbal feedback from the judges. All students also receive written comments, scanned and sent by email following the festival.

Saturday Evening Student Celebration Recital:

All students are invited to perform in the "Celebration of Students' Best Recital." No student will be excluded. After each adjudication, judges select a "best" piece from the student's program (if only one piece is played, that piece will automatically be selected). Students are expected to play this piece for the celebratory recital. We feel it is important to recognize the achievements of every student, regardless of who is awarded prizes in the Awards Ceremony (which follows the celebratory recital). See Schedule of Events for full details.

To qualify for First Prizes, all students must:

1. Attend the Friday evening concert.
2. Perform their best selection (chosen by the judges) on one Saturday afternoon/evening Celebration of Students' Best Recital and be present throughout the Awards Ceremony.
3. Attend a minimum of 3 adjudications (in addition to their own).

All adjudications are free and open to the general public.

Students who cannot meet all attendance requirements may, at the discretion of the Director, qualify for honorable mention prizes.
Contact Dr. Houle.

Philosophy and unique educational mission:

This festival is the only competition of its kind in the world, combining both classical and jazz idioms in a constructive educational setting. Students compete for standard baroque through contemporary repertory prizes, as well as for novel prizes that promote neglected but important creative skills and repertory -- e.g., original concerto cadenzas & classical embellishing/improvisation (skills demonstrated by nearly all great composers yet all but forgotten today), versatility (needed to survive in today's competitive market), lyricism (usually overshadowed by "loud and fast" playing), original compositions (few venues exist for young serious composers), works by female composers, tasteful arrangements/transcriptions (often disallowed in other venues), etc.

We seek to foster diverse and well-rounded musicianship that goes beyond the "autonomic wizardry" that is often overemphasized in other competitions. Above all, pianists are urged to develop and showcase their unique talents and perform with individuality, personality, exuberance, originality and spontaneity.

The festival has been cited on NPR's Performance Today, various newspapers, and in music periodicals such as American Music Teacher, Clavier Companion, Piano & Keyboard, Piano Today, and the London-based Piano magazine. It was also profiled in a major article in the April 2003 issue of Clavier magazine. Most recently, articles about the festival appeared in the Mesa State College Fall 2010 Newsletter and the March 2009 issue of Grand Valley Magazine. The festival was also endorsed by the International Piano Teachers Guild "for providing an excellent competition for the piano community."


Up to 40-45 students, at the discretion of the Directors.


Our world-class judges are generally experts in both classical and jazz/pop styles as well as all forms of improvisation. This combination of skills is rare; furthermore, judges are chosen for their ability to work well with young people and provide useful, learned and positive feedback, both verbally and in writing.

Interested in Colorado Mesa University?

If you are a junior or senior in high school and considering colleges, your participation in this festival can double as an official audition to the Colorado Mesa University music program. Contact Dr. Houle.

Online donations:

We need and appreciate your generous support!

Donations are quick & convenient and may have tax benefits.