So You Want To Organize A Piano Competition? Part III

Amateur pianist and competition planner, Sally Olson, lives in Chicago (US) and is on the committee of the Chicago Amateur Piano Competition 2016. Sally is responsible for organising this competition and has been writing a series of guest blog posts, revealing her organisational skills and marketing strategies. Today’s topic is all about the ‘Events Calender’ and Public Relations.

Comp 2

Planning an “Events Calendar” and “Customer Relations”

Once we had selected our 63 competitors it was time to get serious about the events schedule.

Within one hour of emailing the “Congratulations” email to those competitors chosen to participate in the competition, the inevitable questions started pouring in.  ‘Can I change the repertoire I chose?’  ‘When are my fees due?’  ‘Do you have a hotel you could recommend?’  Even though we sent a PDF attached to the successful competitors, listing all details, we were still inundated with questions.  It became obvious that customer relations would need  to go hand in hand with our event planning.

Above all, we were determined to avoid the “cookie cutter” style competition; where you arrive at the competition, play for 12 minutes, aren’t chosen to advance, and go home. Just how boring and unimaginative is that!?

We had advertised a four-day event, but decided on a pre-competition affair which we entitled “Meet The Judges”.  What would this event accomplish? For the hour preceding this meetup, the judges will meet and get to know each other. This is important as they will be having extensive discussions throughout the judging process.

During the “Meet The Judges” event the competitors and public will be given a question card and an MC will ask the judges various questions. This event will be live streamed on YouTube for those interested. For one hour after the question and answer session, competitors will enjoy refreshments and will be able to pre-register.  This kind of event to date is unique, and affords the pianists an opportunity to get to know the other competitors and meet the judges on a more personal basis.

The real challenge when building our events calendar, was to keep all those involved totally immersed in performing, learning and socializing for four days.  Most important of all was to lay out a schedule allowing them at least four opportunities to perform.

The conclusions drawn from planning these competition events, is that merely competing on stage for 12 minutes is not enough to entice amateur pianists to a competition.  After spending hundreds of dollars on airfares and hotel fees, it’s vital to keep competitors engaged, absorbed and happy for four days. I certainly hope we will achieve our aim.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.


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