Pianists With Day Jobs Tackle A New Three-Day Competition
By Leslie Kandell
Reprinted from New York Time, May 28, 2000

The public hasn't heard of the 25 pianists who are to compete this week in Ridgewood. That's because ostensibly they are not pianists; they all have day jobs.

But after Saturday's final round, a winner will be awarded $1,000 and a full public recital to himself (more likely than herself, from the proportion of male candidates).

This new three-day event, the Northeastern Classical Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs is powered by Phred Meller Of Phred Piano Expression, a Bergen County piano instruction group. Attempting to improve on the Van Cliburn International Amateur Competition and its annual Paris counterpart, Mr. Meller raised the age minimum to 35 and allows pieces to be repeated in later rounds.

The six New Jersey entrants resemble the Cliburn amateurs in their diverse backgrounds, but are less ferocious about winning. In fact, until a few days ago Deborah Brown of Manalapan, who gave her age as 47 - "48 by the time it's over" - considered backing out.

A speech recognition specialist, Ms. Brown holds a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Harvard, and is to play early Rachmaninoff and Ginastera works.

She has ordered no tickets for the finals, and said, "They're not too fond of music, my family."

John Blasdale of Whippany is retired from Schering Plough, where after 29 years, he managed to preserve his British accent.

He plans a 'Beethoven Sonata (op. 78 in F sharp) and an excerpt from Schumann's "Carnival Prank From Vienna." (It's not well known, though it sounds as if Debussy gave it a close look.)

For the next round, he has Bach's "Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue" and a late Brahms intermezzo, and for the finals, Beethoven's opus 111.

Keki Dadachanji, 52, an Indian-born Randolph resident whose job involves forecasting sales of M & M's, was talked into entering by his teacher. "I was never interested in public performance," he said.

Mr. Dadachanji has chosen to play the first of Satie's "Gnossienes." For the second round, he will play Nos. 1 and 2, and will pay all three in the finals.

"Being a nervous person, I didn't want to tackle anything that complicated," he said. "I had to play something simple to be enticed to get into it."

He added, "It would be a very long shot if I did win."

And he is not staying home to practice.

"That day will be just like any other day," he said. "I am a true amateur."

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