SANDY — Sandy pianist Josh Wright grew up with the Gina Bachauer competition. Ever since he was a young boy, he would attend many of the performances with his grandmother.
Then, in 2005, he got the chance to be a part of it. He auditioned and was accepted into that year's young artists competition.
"It was very competitive, but it was a great experience," he told the Deseret News.
This year, the 22-year-old is once again a competitor. "It was an absolute thrill making it into the (international artists) competition," he said. "It's been exciting."
And as he is finding out, the young artists competition might have been an amazing experience, but it doesn't compare to being in the "big" Bachauer. "It's incredible being part of the adult competition. It feels great competing with participants who are a decade older."
Among the field of 38 pianists from all corners of the world, Wright is the only Utahn in this year's competition and one of only five Americans.
"There is a great amount of excitement in this competition, and it's gratifying to be a part of it," he said.
Wright recently competed in the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Poland, so his competition repertoire is heavy on Chopin. But since 2010 is Chopin's bicentennial, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"My selections by Chopin are significant in each of the rounds," he said.
Also on his programs is music by Maurice Ravel, Samuel Barber and Domenico Scarlatti. And if he makes it into the final round, Wright will play Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini."
For years, the Bachauer competition hasn't eliminated competitors after the first of the two preliminary rounds. There is only an elimination after the second round, when six participants are chosen to move on to the finals. That aspect of the competition is something Wright likes.
"It gives you a wider array of works to play and lets you express yourself through different mediums," he said. "Not having elimination rounds early in the competition lets you show what you're made of."
Wright speaks from experience. He's been in quite a few competitions over the years, including the New York International Piano Competition and competitions in Orlando, Fla., and at the Eastman School of Music.
Like most other performers, Wright acknowledges there is a different mind-set playing in competitions compared to concerts. "The greatest reward in competing is that it sharpens your level of performance and accelerates your improvement as an artist."
And while competitions are no doubt stressful, Wright feels he has an advantage at the Bachauer. "I'm going to be playing in front of an audience that is my home."
Wright began playing the piano when he was 5, and for his first four years, he was taught by his grandmother.
Then he went to Susan Duehlmeier at the University of Utah, with whom he still studies. He'll be receiving his master's degree next May at the U., and he plans on working toward a doctorate. His career goal is to both teach and perform.
"I have a really great passion for teaching," Wright said. "I started an online teaching course, which has been going really well. But my goal is to teach at a university and also have a concert career."
If you go...
What: Gina Bachauer International Artists Piano Competition
Where: Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts and Abravanel Hall
When: Round 2, June 22-26, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m., Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center; Final Round with the Utah Symphony, June 30-July 1, 7 p.m., Abravanel Hall; awards ceremony after July 1 performance
How much: Round 2 $15 general admission, $10 students; Final Round $25 per night; competition pass $150 (includes both nights of the final round)
Phone: 801-355-2787 or 888-451-2787