Odyssiad Festival: Piano performances of a lifetime

International Keyboard Odyssiad & Festival USA

This summer, a one-of-a-kind, international piano competition and festival is in its sixth year at Colorado State University, giving the public a rare opportunity to hear gifted pianists from around the world. The 2017 International Keyboard Odyssiad® & Festival, U.S.A. features internationally renowned pianists, including Van Cliburn medalists, in five riveting evening concerts, alongside an Olympic-styled competition for young pianists ages 11-35, including two CSU students.

The term Odyssiad® (pronounced O-dys-si-ad) comes from odyssey, and was coined to signify “A Journey to the Performance of a Lifetime.” From Aug. 1 to 5, 47 talented pianists will continue their epic journey in Fort Collins, converging on the University Center for the Arts for the semifinal and final rounds of the Odyssiad Competition, having “made the cut” in preliminary rounds held in Dallas, Miami, Korea, three cities in China and online by video submission.

Ty Huey
Ty Huey

Two CSU music performance majors were selected anonymously, by video audition, for participation in this year’s competition: Ty Huey, a sophomore from Denver who holds the College of Liberal Arts’ “Champion an Artist” scholarship; and Sicong “Frank” Zhou, a senior piano major from Shanghai, China.

“It is a great honor that they were accepted into the Semifinal Round of the Odyssiad Competition, as they were competing against some of today’s finest young pianists,” says Janet Landreth, coordinator of keyboard studies at Colorado State University and founder of the competition and festival in 2010.

Semifinal round

The semifinal round takes place on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the University Center for the Arts, and is free and open to the public. The two CSU students are among the 47 remaining competitors from 14 U.S. states and seven countries, including Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Cuba, Macedonia and Turkey.

Both CSU pianists recognize the importance of the selection and are eager to compete. “It is a chance for me to see how I compare to other pianists from all over the world, and to get my name out there as a performer and competitor,” said Huey, who has previously only competed in smaller events.

For Zhou, who competed many times in China, the Odyssiad is a chance to hone his competitive skills as he looks ahead to a master’s degree. “Since I plan to attend more international piano competitions in the near future, this competition will give me some basic ideas about what it feels like to compete in the U.S.,” he explained. “It will be a good opportunity to perfect myself.”

The time Landreth has invested into her students’ preparation this summer has been a pleasure. “They are both enormously talented and both are eager to learn,” said Landreth. “We have great fun in their lessons and laugh a lot because the joy of making music is contagious.”

Sicong Zhou
Sicong Zhou

For those who wish to cheer on the piano-playing Rams on Aug. 1, Zhou competes at 9 a.m. (Level C) in Griffin Concert Hall, and Huey takes his turn at the piano at 1:20 p.m. (Level B) in the Instrumental Rehearsal Hall.

“There is no reason to be in a panic,” states Zhou. “I will be pretty ready for this.”

Although he’s found preparing stressful and exciting at the same time, Huey agrees. “I’ve been busy practicing and having lessons to make sure that I’m in tip-top shape when I perform in August.”

Guest artists

Another cornerstone and highlight of the week is the presence of more than a dozen renowned guest artists, including the head of piano from the famed Juilliard music school in New York.

In addition to giving recitals and masterclasses for festival participants, and serving as judges for the competition, each day is capped off with an incredible concert by the famous performers, including Van Cliburn 2013 Gold Medalist Vadym Kholodenko and 2017 Silver Medalist Kenneth Broberg; Croatian pianist Kemal Gekic; the Atlantis Piano Duo from Salamanca, Spain; and the 2016 Gold Medalist of the new Olga Kern International Piano Competition, Chen Guang.

In only its sixth year of production, the International Keyboard Odyssiad® & Festival, U.S.A. is fast becoming known in competitive piano circles.

For Landreth, the vision for an international competition and festival for pianists, and lovers of the piano, in Fort Collins and at CSU included global distinction and participation. “And after only six years, I can say that vision is fast becoming a reality.”

Tickets for evening concerts may be purchased at CSUartstickets.com or at the University Center for the Arts Box Office one hour prior to concerts. Prices are $35/adult; $25/senior (65+); $15/student. The full daily schedule, including the free competition sessions, is available at odyssiad.com.

Nightly concert schedule

Kenneth Broberg, 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Silver Medalist
Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m.
A top medalist from the 2017 Van Cliburn Competition, Kenneth Broberg performs the opening concert after competing in one of the most distinguished, venerable and challenging competitions in the world. Program includes works by César Franck, J.S. Bach, and Franz Liszt.

Vadym Kholodenko
Vadym Kholodenko

Atlantis Piano Duo
Aug. 2, 7:30 p.m.
After an electrifying concert at the 2016 Odyssiad, the Atlantis Piano Duo – Eduardo Ponce and Sophia Hase, from the University of Salamanca, Spain – returns by popular demand. Program includes works by J.S. Bach, Franz Schubert, and Igor Stravinsky.

Pianist Kemal Gekic
Aug. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Performing worldwide from a vast repertoire, the Croatian pianist presents fascinating, uncompromising and ever-changing interpretations, always generating frenzied audience enthusiasm. Program includes Franz Liszt and J.S. Bach.

Chen Guang, 2016 Olga Kern International Winner, Scriabin Prize, and Rome Prize
Aug. 4, 7:30 p.m.
The twenty-one-year-old pianist combines extraordinary technical capacity with a profound and mature musical sensibility and exceptional on-stage charisma. Program includes works by Frederic Chopin, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Vadym Kholodenko, 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist
Aug. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Capturing the attention of juries, audiences, and critics alike for “mesmerizing and exhilarating” performances that [bring] the crowd to their feet, cheering him like a rock star. Program includes works by W.A. Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin, and Alexander Scriabin.