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Ukrainian pianist among 30 selected to compete in 16th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Dmytro Choni.
Cristian ArguetaSota
Fort Worth Report
The crowd applauds Dmytro Choni's audition to compete in the 16th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Ukrainian pianist Dmytro Choni will return to Fort Worth to compete at the 16th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition this summer.

Choni was the sole Ukrainian who performed at PepsiCo Recital Hall and is one of 30 pianists to advance from this year’s screening auditions.

The pianists range in age from 18 to 31 and span 14 countries — including six competitors from Russia, five from China, and three from the United States.

In a written statement, Cliburn president and CEO Jacques Marquis said, “The hearts of the people of the Cliburn are with the valiant Ukrainians as they courageously defend their homeland from the Russian regime. What is happening goes against everything that humankind should stand for.”

But ultimately, he notes, the pianists were chosen “solely on their artistry.”

“The Cliburn must and will remain true to its mission as an artist-supporting cultural institution, and we are dedicated to the power of this artform to transcend boundaries. We make no distinction between non-political artists based on their nationality, gender, or ethnicity. We stand firmly with the music community around the globe in its commitment to these ideals.”

This year the competition had a record-breaking 388 applicants, but only 72 candidates were invited to perform at the screening auditions.

From there, a five-person jury whittled the pool down to 30 performers.

One of the jurors, Angela Cheng, noted that all of the pianists vying for a spot during the auditions were extremely talented at their craft. As an accomplished pianist herself and a semifinalist in the Cliburn’s 1989 competition, Cheng knows what it’s like to be on both sides of these decisions.

Over the phone, she expressed sympathy for the pianists who weren’t selected.

“When you put your heart and soul into your playing, it can feel like they’re rejecting not just your performance, but you. I really, really hope that each person who didn’t get through has a support system that can help them realize that it’s just one of many steps in one’s journey,” Cheng said. “Even though the jury didn’t select them this time, it doesn’t mean that they’re not good. This was just five people’s opinions.”

For those who were selected to move forward, Cheng advises the pianists to think of their performances more as a concert than a competition and to focus on interpreting the meaning of the music.

Put simply, Cheng said, “Play your heart out.”

This story was originally published by Fort Worth Report.

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.