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TUESDAY, JUNE 5, 2007
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Decatur High grad wins international piano competition

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A Decatur High graduate bested 74 other competitors from 23 states and seven nations to win the Van Cliburn Foundation's Fifth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs.

Drew Mays, 47, an ophthalmologist now living in Birmingham, took top honors Sunday for his 30-minute recital of Beethoven's "Waldstein Sonata" and Liszt's "Mephisto Waltz." Mays also won the audience award and the best performance of a work from the Romantic Era.

Mays is a 1978 graduate of Decatur High School and the son of Daniel and Ruth Mays.

"I haven't let it sink in yet," Mays said as he was surrounded by his four children on the auditorium stage at Texas Christian University. His winnings included $2,000, a pair of custom spurs and recital dates in Washington, D.C., and Laguna Beach, Calif.

The weeklong competition was limited to contestants age 35 and older who don't earn their living teaching or playing the piano.

Second prize went to Mark Fuller, a Phoenix lawyer who also won the press jury award and best performance of a post-Romantic work.

Composer Clark Griffith, of Fort Worth, won third prize and best performance of a Baroque work.

The event is an offshoot of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, named for the acclaimed pianist who gained prominence after winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958. The Cliburn contest is now held every four years in the pianist's hometown of Fort Worth.

Cliburn's contest for amateurs started in 1999 and then was held in the even years until 2004. Starting this year, organizers decided to hold it every four years so there will be two years between it and the main Cliburn competition.

Cliburn opened Sunday's finals with praise for the competitors and their infectious enthusiasm. He also honored his friend Mstislav Rostropovich, the Russian cellist who died in April.

He urged the musicians and fans to become what Rostropovich would call "soldiers of beauty."

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On the Net

Van Cliburn Foundation, www.cliburn.org

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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