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This California software engineer won the Cliburn amateur piano competition in Fort Worth

Three men in suits stand in front of a piano.
Ralph Lauer
The Cliburn
The winners of the Eighth Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition are, from left, third prize, Xavier Aymonod, from France; first prize, Jon Lee from the United States, and second prize, Michael Slavin, from the United States. The prize was awarded Oct. 18, 2022 at Bass Hall in Fort Worth.

A cross-country move led 41-year-old Jon Lee to rediscover classical music. He beat competitors from around the world in a grueling contest. An Arlington physician received a special jury prize.

Jon Lee won first place, $2,000, a pair of custom made cowboy boots AND major bragging rights Tuesday night.

Contestants in the Cliburn International Amateur Competition all have impressive day jobs. Yet they also commit to the piano, putting in hundreds of hours of practice.

And Lee is no exception. The software engineer, 41, is originally from Milwaukee, where he studied music as a child. He has a bachelor's and master's degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He moved across country for a job at Apple, and that's when he reconnected with classical music and began entering - and winning - piano competitions around the country.

Michael Slavin, a 71-year-old retired neuro-opthalmologist from Manhasset, New York, placed second. And Xavier Aymonod, 46, an international public transportation expert from France, placed third.

Noah DeGarmo, an emergency room physician at Arlington Memorial Hospital, received a special jury prize of $500. DeGarmo studied piano as an undergrad, and has competed in the Cliburn before.

A man in a suit and tie smiles while wearing his new cowboy hat.
Ralph Lauer
The Cliburn
Masanori Murakami won a special audience award - and this cowboy hat - at the Cliburn Amateur Competition on Oct. 18, 2022.

In addition to DeGarmo, the jury also awarded special prizes of $500 to:

  • Deirbhile Brennan, Accountant, 53, Ireland
  • Sean Sutherland, Product Manager, 45, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines/Canada

Masanori Murakami, a 38-year-old clinical project manager from Japan, won the audience award, and a cowboy hat, in addition to $500.

Anne Bothwell is Vice President, Arts at KERA, the public radio and television station for North Texas. She oversees local arts, music and culture content on a variety of station platforms, including KERA FM, KERA TV,, and KERA’s arts journalists have won numerous awards for their work, including a national Edward R. Murrow award for video. The television series Frame of Mind spotlights Texas’ independent filmmakers. The Art&Seek calendar connects you with arts events. And the State of the Arts conversation series in Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton uses arts and culture as lens to frame community issues. Anne got her start as an arts editor in newspapers, with stints at The Dallas Morning News and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She has a journalism degree from Northwestern University.