A rigged piano competition in Texas

A rigged piano competition in Texas


norman lebrecht

August 04, 2022

The jury at this week’s Weatherford College piano competition were Steven Spooner, Jose Mendez, and Carol Leone.

First prize went to Xinyue Wang of the Eastman School.

Joint second were Tian Tang (a student of Jose Mendez) and Seonghun Jeong (a student of Carol Leone).

Fair, or what?

In addition, the top prize was meanly reduced from $2,400 to $2,000 and the second from $1,200 to $1,000.

Competitors went away crying foul (in emails to slippedisc.com).




  • Waaah says:

    Waaaah. Waaah. Waaah.

    That’s right – next time you lose a competition, just write a sad angry email to Slipped Disc for justice to be restored.

    • Stephan says:

      What if a vastly superior giant on the level of Horowitz or Rubenstein showed up, played amazingly well but were not given a prize? Should they just grin and bear it thinking that all competitions are legit? Should we also think that all orchestra auditions are fair and square because they are held behind a screen? Based on my experiences of being both a participant and judge, I can say that there are many cases where things are done as fair as possible. But for people to think that corruption is simply a figment of someone’s imagination is simply not accurate. Once, a member of orchestra management entered the hall during an audition and attempted to get me to change my mind regarding a particular candidate. The individual wasn’t even in the ballpark in terms of ability, so there was no way that I was going to vote for them when the others were simply much better musicians.

  • boots says:

    But hey, the winner is easy on the eye at least. I am all for that.

  • drummerman says:

    Why would anybody even care about this “competition? which no one has ever heard of.

    • Rain Adkins says:

      Presumably the people in it, who slaved to be ready and may well have needed the money and the resumé item? Their families, their friends, their teachers? This hurt actual people.

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    The legality of “Rigged” in the headline is suspicious; what evidence is there of nefarious collusion by the jury to award 1st prize to someone else’s student?

    Perhaps the woke among us will share their thoughts on the lack of diversity among the winners.

    Biggest news here: there’s a school in Texas called Weatherford College.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Curious to see how it goes for Xinyue Wang, Tian Tang, and Seonghun Jeong in the next few years.

    • Ludwig's Van says:

      A victory in this competition won’t make any difference on their careers.

    • Terence says:

      Probably nowhere as far as concerts go.

      I doubt that they can play well but supply vastly exceeds demand when it comes to good pianists.

      It’s sad because some of most enjoyed concerts were with unknown pianists/musicians in small venues.

  • Coleman Chase says:

    I don’t think teachers should be adjudicating their own students in cash prize competitions. That said, I wasn’t there and have no idea if it was rigged or not but the situation is peculiar.

  • WP says:

    As a Caucasian musician who sits on juries every year, there is no escaping the fact that by and large, the best young Asian musicians tend to be wiser, to have a deeper sense of the music. The old idea that they play with less emotion was probably never true; it certainly isn’t today. Of course there are many exceptions… Whether this competition was rigged because students of the jury won, is impossible to say.

  • John Marks says:

    Having never ever ever heard of Weatherford College before (and my having spent 26 years in higher education, and having four family members who also taught or teach at the college level), I am saddened that this is how I learned of the existence of Weatherford College. Hmm. Founded 1869.

    I can’t say the competition was rigged. The students of the judges might have deserved prizes.

    But the optics suck, and the cash prizes are embarrassing. How much does Weatherford pay to wine and dine the Trustees when they meet?

  • IP says:

    Aren’t they all?

  • concours are mostly corrupt. says:

    This is very very common in concours, so that one would say they are institutionally corrupt.

  • Raymond J Houser says:

    Your stories are rather frustrating in that they often lack detail or commentary from those involved in the story. Give us the rest of the story.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    Heck! That ain’t nothin’ here in Texas. If you think that’s bad, you should see our politics!

    Seriously, Weatherford TX is at the heart of a legal lawsuit over gerrymandering (a quaint American custom from post-colonial times in which the governing party gets to shape political district maps to favor its own candidates). It’s a political sleight of hand that Texans have mastered. See https://www.texastribune.org/2022/04/06/beverly-powell-reelection-redistricting/:

    “State Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Burleson, ended her reelection campaign Wednesday morning, citing an ‘unwinnable race’ in a district that Republican lawmakers had redrawn to make a Democratic win impossible… In withdrawing her nomination, Powell all but gives the election to Republican nominee state Rep. Phil King of Weatherford.”

  • Sam says:

    $1k and $2k? That is embarrassing.

  • William Ransom says:

    “Competitions are for horses”- Bela Bartok, competition loser…..