Once again, the Gina Bachauer Competition has opened in Salt Lake City - an international event for pianists that keeps growing in prestige, in quality, in scope, and in musical significance.

Those Utahns who are not associated with the world of classical music, either as performers or audience, may be surprised to learn of the world-wide reputation the competition is earning.It is named after the late Gina Bachauer, renowned Athens-born concert pianist, who had many ties with Utah and was once named an "honorary citizen" of the state.

This year's two-week event attracted 300 applicants from dozens of countries. Some 17 pre-Bachauer competitions held all over the world helped winnow the number of finalists to 58, from at least 16 nations. The quality of the individual performers is tremendous.

The grand prize winner will receive $3,000, a new Baldwin grand piano, and perhaps more important, a number of invitations to perform concerts in cities around the globe. In addition, there are a wide variety of other prizes, totaling more than $100,000, plus concert invitations.

Preliminary competitions began this week to reduce the number of competitors to 20. Those 20 will perform 30-minute solos June 20-21. The 10 semi-finalists will play another 30-minute concert again June 22-23, and the six finalists will solo June 24-25 with the Utah Symphony to choose a grand prize winner.

The 14 judges represent countries ranging from Norway to Hong Kong and are themselves big names in classical piano music.

The pressure and intensity of the competition is hard to adequately describe, but it is bottled up in each of the individual performers. Pride and dreams ride on the outcome.

Along with the competition, there are classes, workshops, Temple Square concerts, and other activities before, during, and after the two-week event.

The Gina Bachauer Competition is growing into something that is surprising even its early sponsors. And the city is reaping a classical musical reputation that has solid ties all over the globe. Welcome to the pianists, the judges, and others here for this special event.