Brigham Young University professor Irene Peery-Fox was asked if 2013 is the golden year of pianists at the Provo school.
"I guess," she said with a laugh.
Describing it as "golden" might be hyperbole, but BYU pianists have had astonishing success at international and national competitions recently.
The duo of Tiffany Winkel Delgado and Hilary Heideman Mauler, both of whom study under Peery-Fox, won two national competitions. In January, the pair won the United States International Duo Piano Competition in Colorado Springs, which featured musicians from the U.S., Russia, Taiwan, Korea, China, India and Canada. Then earlier this month, they earned first place at the National Federation of Music Clubs Ellis Duo Piano Competition in Mississippi, which also was full of musicians with more experience.
They aren't the only Peery-Fox students to earn accolades. Last month, Conlan Miller won the Young Artists Award Performance Competition at the Music Teachers National Association conference in Anaheim. The grand prize, a Steinway piano valued at more than $25,000, arrived in Utah last week.
With those wins, 2013 is becoming one of the most accomplished years for keyboard students attending BYU's School of Music, which dates back to 1876.
The fact that all three students are Utah natives adds to the excitement. Delgado was raised in Spanish Fork, Mauler is from St. George and Miller hails from Delta.
Delgado, 24, and Mauler, 23, began performing together in the spring of 2012, when they enrolled in Peery-Fox's ensemble class.
The choice to make them partners was simple, said Peery-Fox said. Both were top students and were tall and "pretty" with long brown hair.
To Peery-Fox, successful competitors not only have to "play like a million bucks" but have to treat each concert as a performance the complete package.
The duo punctuated their years at BYU by performing their signature rendition of Witold Lutoslawski's Paganini Variations for Two Pianos at the BYU commencement on Thursday, April 25. The celebratory selection preceded the commencement speech of Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During the ceremonies, Delgado earned her master's degree and Mauler received her bachelor's, both in piano performance.
This summer, Delgado will move to Spain with her husband so he can finish his master's degree. And Mauler will move to Palo Alto, Calif., as her husband will begin a doctorate program in economics at Stanford University.
Even though they will be geographically separated, Delgado and Mauler will reunite for an occasional performance. After winning the Mississippi competition, both women were offered a two-year contract to perform together throughout the country.
Their first performance is in June in South Carolina.
It's an exciting honor for "something we did for fun," Delgado said. "We didn't plan on winning."
Added Mauler: "It was, honestly, 'Let's just see how we do.' "