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17-Year-Old From Kazakhstan Wins First Cliburn Junior Piano Competition

A 17-year-old from Kazakhstan won the top $10,000 prize Sunday at the first-ever Cliburn International Junior Piano competition in Fort Worth.

AlimBeisembayev says his parents watched the live stream of his 5 o’clock Sunday concerto performance even though it was 4 in the morning where they live. The teen moved to England five years ago to study piano and says the hard work paid off.

“It’s been extremely stressful, and had some surprises, but it was really a great pleasure to be here and to be able to get so far,” Beisembayev said.

Russian Arseni Mun, who’s 16, took  second place, and Chinese native Youlan Ji, who’s also 16, got third prize. She studies piano in New York. When the contest began last week, she wasn’t clear on how she’d fit music into her future.

“I’m still not sure yet about a career,” Ji said, “but I think  this definitely helps  with my confidence.”  

She and the others say they hope to get into the main Cliburn Competition when they’re older.   

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.