G Clef by Gina Heideman


Adjudications: Open to the public, free

Adjudications are free admission and open to teachers, students and the general public. All contestants must attend 3 adjudications (beyond their own) to qualify for prizes.

Adjudications consist of:

Adjudications take place throughout the festival (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; see Schedule of Events for details). Students will be notified of their adjudication time approximately one to two weeks before the festival. Please notify the directors of any hardship conflicts as early as possible; requests for special times will be respectfully considered but cannot be guaranteed.

Students may play pieces in any order at their adjudications, even if that order differs from how it appears on the program sheet or application form.

After students perform, the judges provide about 10 to 20 minutes of constructive verbal feedback. Students also receive written comments, which will be scanned and sent by email to all contestants and their teachers following the festival.

Repertory: 1, 2 or 3 pianos, any style, up to 15 minutes

(See also Piano Ensemble 30-minute option below)

15-minute limits strictly enforced

In fairness to all students, playing time will be carefully monitored with a timepiece. The timekeeper "stops the clock" and does not count silence between selections. If an adjudication exceeds 15 minutes of playing time (regardless of by how much), the student may be asked to stop. Furthermore, the final selection (exceeding the time limit) must be disqualified for consideration of any prizes. Judges and timekeeper have no discretion with this; the 15-minute limit is strictly enforced.

By memory?

Contestants may perform with or without music; memory is not a factor in evaluations. Students who play with music are responsible for bringing a page-turner if needed. For discussions on the pros and cons of memorization, see The Pianist in a High-Wire Act by Anthony Tommasini or Must I Memorize? by Arthur Houle.

Bring a copy of music to adjudications

A legal copy of all music (not photocopied, unless music is original, unpublished and/or uncopyrighted - e.g., public domain) must be provided for the judges. Exception: If original music played by the contestant is not notated (we prefer that original music be notated & music provided, but it's not required).

Measures should be numbered

If measure numbers are not already indicated in editions, students should pencil those in. A number at the beginning of each line of music is sufficient. This will help the judges make specific and constructive written comments.

Composers need not provide music

Contestants playing original compositions or arrangements need not provide scores, but scores are helpful and appreciated (even if they are a bit rough or in some form of non-traditional notation).


Concertos are considered solo works, not piano ensemble. If concerto movements are played, contestants are responsible for securing their own accompanist to play 2nd piano orchestral reductions. Accompanists can be any person or persons of the contestant's choice, including a teacher. Prizes are awarded solely to the soloist. That said, judges do consider the overall ensemble quality of concerto performances. Tasteful cuts in the orchestral reduction part are allowable.

Please indicate on the application form the person or persons who have written (or will improvise) cadenzas -- the composer of the work? an editor? the contestant? Contestants may be awarded appropriate "Repertory Excellence Awards" with or without original cadenzas. However, a contestant must have written (or improvised on the spot) one or more cadenzas in order to qualify for the "Embellishing and/or Improvising in a Classical Work or Concerto Movement" category. [Students may get help from teachers, books, articles, etc. However, a contestant must be the primary author of cadenzas to qualify for this prize. We rely on the ethical assurances of students, teachers, and parents in this regard.]

Piano ensemble option: 30 minutes of repertory

A student may enroll for two adjudications and perform up to 30 minutes of repertory under the following conditions only:

  1. One program (up to 15 minutes maximum) must consist entirely of solo repertory.
  2. The other program (also up to 15 minutes) must consist entirely of ensemble repertory (4 or more hands for 1, 2 or 3 pianos, not including concertos, which are considered solo works).
  3. The contestant playing on both programs must submit two separate online application forms (one listing solo repertory, the other listing ensemble pieces) as well as a double application fee to cover the cost of two adjudications.
  4. All additional students (those playing on the ensemble program only) must also submit an application fee to qualify for any prizes; contingent on payment of these fees, prize money is shared equally by ensemblists. Depending on circumstances, application fees for students involved ONLY in ensemble performances might be at a reduced rate, at the discretion of Dr. Houle.
  5. Students considering this option should contact Dr. Houle as far in advance as possible, for planning purposes.

Students who wish to perform both solo and ensemble repertory on ONE adjudication (maximum 15 minutes of playing time) should also consult with Dr. Houle as early as possible to work out the logistics of scheduling and applying. Some students might pay a reduced application fee (at the discretion of the director), especially if their involvement is minimal and only as ensemblists. However, those playing both solo and ensemble repertory should expect to pay the full application fee.

New WRITTEN COMPOSITION Category (scroll 1/2 way down) Category

Students may opt to also submit a written composition. This is separate from adjudications and does not count towards the 15-minute repertory limit. There is a separate application form.

First Prize Winning Repertory - Once Only

Students are not allowed to perform adjudication repertory that has already earned one of more First Prizes in our past festivals.

Possible exception:
Pieces that are in a substantially altered form may be allowed - e.g., a student performs Chopin's Nocturne in Eb, Op. 9/2 as originally published (no variants), then performs it again incorporating Chopin's authentic variants and/or performer variants (see at bottom of this page for Houle recording of this nocturne with variants). To play it safe, please notify Dr. Houle as far in advance as possible for permission in such cases.

Frequently Asked Questions

• Are movement(s) of a sonata, concerto or suite allowed?

Yes, complete individual movement(s) are O.K.

• How advanced should repertory be?

Pieces at any level are allowed. Advanced level pieces played superbly well will obviously get noticed, especially in the "Repertory Excellence Awards." However, easy pieces (e.g., Baroque dances and Mozart's easiest minuets) can be great vehicles for personal expression and creativity, especially on repeats. Easy jazz "fake" charts can also showcase improvisatory skills. Moreover, prizes for composition do not always awarded to the most advanced, complicated pieces (see 2010 Results Archive Page; a simple yet ingenious piece by an 8-year-old contestant won that year!).

• Should applicants indicate for which prize(s) they are competing?

No. The judges will determine what prize(s) an applicant is eligible for, based on the applicant's program (maximum of 15 minutes). See above.

• If someone is not accepted or drops, will the application fee be refunded?

Application fees are non-refundable as long as there are openings in the festival. Fees will only be refunded if applications are submitted after the enrollment has been capped.

• Is there any lower age limit for admittance to the festival?

No. As with any competition, we celebrate high-level players. However, our spotlight is not solely on superstars. (We're all familiar with the stereotype that dominates so many competitions: loud, fast, virtuosic above all else, inhumanly free of mistakes, interpretively safe/orthodox, "good" classical music only, and exactly/only what's in the sacred urtext.) We are a "big tent" inclusive festival that encourages students of all levels and abilities to showcase various kinds of talents. Even students of very young ages have found the festival a very positive educational experience, regardless of whether they won any prizes. The judges are very patient, gentle, positive, witty and constructively motivating in their interactions with students. (Check out this priceless 2012 archive picture of John Salmon demonstrating a dance to a young contestant - great fun!)