Pianist James Hurley hit all the right notes late last month, placing a respectable second in the 2007 Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Association’s National Piano Competition in Toronto.
The third-year piano performance major from Memorial University of Newfoundland’s School of Music was selected by several local music teachers to represent this province – and Memorial – at the biannual event, held March 23-27. It was his first time as a competitor outside of this province.
“I wasn’t expecting a placement or anything,” an excited Mr. Hurley said recently, adding that he chose to attend the event to garner some new experience.
“I played classical music for this competition – compositions by Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Bach and Haydn,” he said. “It was standard classical music repertoire for the most part, but I like playing things that are not usually performed.”
A dedicated performer who has been involved with choirs, orchestras, bands, jazz ensembles and since he was in grade school, Mr. Hurley, who is from St. John’s, said he savours performing for audiences.
“I love playing for people, I love to create a space which removes reality and suspends time,” he said. “To be able to create that for people is a great motivation. I’m inspired by all kinds of musicians and people in all different walks of life. My own teachers have been great influences and mentors in what I want to do with my life.”
Placing second at the national competition is no easy feat, admitted one of Mr. Hurley’s key mentors, Tim Steeves, an associate professor of piano at Memorial.
“It is a pretty tough competition. Some of the larger provinces such as Quebec, Ontario and BC have extensive playoffs to choose their national competitor,” he noted. “The level of playing is very high. All nine finalists must present a program of about 45 minutes and from that performance the top three are chosen. The top three play again, another 45 minute program, and then are ranked first, second or third. James has done very well to get second.”
Dr. Tom Gordon, director of Memorial’s School of Music, echoes those sentiments.
“This is a significant national competition and a tremendous achievement for one of our students and is well worthy of being celebrated by the university,” he noted.