The Dublin International Piano Competition has gone from strength to strength in 25 years driven by the passion and commitment of the teams of volunteers.
Through an extended network of volunteers and their families and friends, the ripples of the Competition have spread throughout the city and become securely embedded in the lives of many in a very personal way.
Rather than banishing contestants to hotel rooms, the young pianists stay with Irish families and form a bond with them over the period of the Competition and, in many cases, make life-long friendships. The uniquely nurturing nature of the Competition continues with a team of drivers who deliver competitors to their practice and to the Competition, the piano owners who open their homes to practising contestants, providing shoulders to cry on, and tea and sympathy whenever needed. This ultimately creates a more successful competitive – at the same time convivial – experience for all.
There is a large team of volunteers who run the daily operation of the Competition in the RDS. Their duties include box office, programme selling, ushering, competitor escort, Green Room, catering in the Friends’ Room and in the Competitors’ Room and all sorts of other sundry jobs.
By living with an Irish family for the duration of the Competition, the young pianists go through the gruelling qualifying rounds with their own support group or ‘family,’ and get an insight into Irish life as an added cultural bonus. Many remain friends for years afterwards and return to their Irish families for weddings, christenings and other family celebrations.
The pianos are the biggest logistical exercise in the Competition. There are over 80 pianos involved for both practice and performance. Most of the practice pianos are in private homes. In addition to these privately-owned pianos, further pianos are specially supplied by Steinway & Sons, through their Dublin agent Pianos Plus They are placed in the RDS and in other private houses for the duration of the Competition. Steinway & Sons also provide the concert grands for all Competition performances and back up their support with their excellent specialist technicians.
Up to 40 drivers are required for each Competition, some of whom take time from work as accountants, radiologists, bank managers and lawyers etc. to carry competitors from pillar to post across Dublin over two weeks of the Competition. Not only that, but they have to be ready to be up with the dawn chorus and also to burn the midnight oil, particularly on results’ nights. By the time the Competition has advanced to the final stages, a strong bond will have developed between the driver and the competitor.