In 1976, a 21-year-old pianist named Douglas Humpherys was the first gold-medal winner of the first Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition. "I look back and think it was probably easier to win that year," joked Humpherys.
Since then, about 3,500 pianists have competed in the prestigious Utah-based piano competition, which has awarded a total of $430,000 in prize money and launched countless careers, including that of Humpherys.
Humpherys, chairman of the piano department at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, has been named artistic director of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation. He succeeds Paul Pollei, who has led the competition since its launch at Brigham Young University in 1976.
Under the direction of the Utah Symphony, the competition relocated to Salt Lake City in 1980 before earning nonprofit status in 1986. The name of Gina Bachauer was given to the competition in honor of the Greek pianist who appeared with Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony during eight subscription concerts.
Pollei, who has been on leave due to health issues, will continue with the nonprofit as artistic director emeritus. Humpherys, who has been a juror 14 times for the competition, said he hoped to fulfill the goals set forth by Pollei. "This was all his vision," Humpherys said. "He is a music ambassador for the world. He brought the world of pianists to Salt Lake City."
Humpherys will be a worthy successor, said Chase Kimball, an attorney for the Lewis Hansen law firm and longtime member of Bachauer's board of directors. "He's a longtime friend of the Bachauer Foundation," Kimball said. "We're confident of a strong future with Douglas Humpherys as artistic director."
Humpherys was "head and shoulders over the competition" for the artistic director position, said Nathan Morgan, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-based Continental Bank Corporation, who serves as treasurer of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation.
Humpherys will continue on the Eastman School of Music faculty, but "I don't see the Bachauer Foundation missing a step," Morgan said.
Humpherys holds advanced degrees from Juilliard School and the Eastman School of Music, and his international concert career has spanned more than 35 years, including frequenly performing as a guest artist in Beijing.
Bachauer competitions are divided into three categories based on age, and the three competitions are part of a four-year cycle of events scheduled in June.