41-year-old software engineer wins Cliburn Amateur finals

Winners of the Eighth Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition (from the left): third prize, Xavier Aymonod from France; first prize, Jon Lee from the United States; second prize, Michael Slavin from the United States. (Photo by Ralph Lauer)

John Lee, a 41-year-old software engineer, won top honors Tuesday night in the Eighth Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition at Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall.

The American pianist’s first-place finish among six finalists in the competition for non-professional pianists age 35 and older earned him a $2,000 cash prize.

Second place and a 1,500 cash prize went to another American, 71-year-old Michael Slavin, a retired neuro-ophthalmologist.

Xavier Aymonod, a 46-year-old public transportation marketing director from France, finished in third place and won a $1,000 cash prize.

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Tuesday’s final round completed seven days of competition featuring 39 of the best amateur pianists from around the globe.

In addition to the top three finishers, several competitors won special awards:

Jury Discretionary Award
Deirbhile Brennan, Accountant, 53, Ireland
$500 cash prize

Jury Discretionary Award
Sean Sutherland, Product Manager, 45, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines/Canada
$500 cash prize

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Jury Discretionary Award
Noah DeGarmo, Physician, 44, United States
$500 cash prize

Audience Award
Masanori Murakami, Clinical Project Manager, 38, Japan
$500 cash prize

Serving as jurors for the competition were:

  • Pamela Mia Paul, jury chair (United States)
  • Peter Czornyj (United Kingdom)
  • Alessandro Deljavan (Italy)
  • Valery Kuleshov (United States)
  • Carol Leone (United States)
  • Alex McDonald (United States)
  • Spencer Myer (United States)