The San Antonio International Piano Competition (SAIPC) was founded in 1983 by a group of fellow music lovers, some of whom are still involved with the Competition today. The first Competition was held at Trinity University Laurie Auditorium in October 1984.
The quadrennial Competition features some of the most exhilarating young talent in the world for this “Piano Olympics” with past participants hailing from Australia, Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Russia, Lithuania, Italy, France, Netherlands, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Venezuela, Philippines, Singapore, Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Poland, South Africa, Armenia, Georgia, Peru, Germany, Chile, Hungary, Greece, Mexico, Canada and United States. Participation in the San Antonio International Piano Competition inspired these young pianists to greater heights. Many took their rightful place among the most prestigious music faculties in the world and continue to concertize – bringing joy to audiences around the globe.
Over the years some of the most distinguished concert pianists/educators have served as Jurors, such as Abbey Simon, David Burge, Joseph Bloch, Ruth Laredo, Ann Schein, Peter Takacs, Ralph Votapek, Daniel Pollack, Robin McCabe, William Wolfram, Santiago Rodriguez, Lita Guerra, Boris Slutsky (former SAIPC Gold Medalist), Jeffrey Swann, Ilana Vered, Naoko Takao (former SAIPC Gold Medalist), Eduardo Delgado, Jeffrey Biegel, Gustavo Romero, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, Olga Kern, Afa Dworkin, Yaron Kohlberg, and Carolyn True.
Shortly after the completion of the 12th SAIPC in June 2016, the SAIPC Board entered into discussions with the organization they felt was the best “match” for the Competition and related activities: Musical Bridges Around the World (MBAW). A merger of the two organizations occurred in June 2017, with the SAIPC becoming a member of the MBAW family.
As one of the earliest and most important acts of the Musical Bridges’ CEO, Anya Grokhovski, DMA – the Competition was renamed to honor Ruth Jean Gurwitz who, before her passing in 2015, was President Emeritus for more than 20 years, the greatest supporter and guiding hand of SAIPC since inception.
The Gurwitz is a member of World Federation of International Music Competitions
Starting in 2020, The Gurwitz has been accepted as a member of the Geneva-based World Federation of International Music Competitions (WFIMC). “The Gurwitz collaboration and recognition by the WFIMC brings great honor and prestige to the San Antonio competition and places The Gurwitz on a global stage,” said Anya Grokhovski, Artistic Director & CEO of Musical Bridges Around the World, a nonprofit arts organization that manages The Gurwitz.
Criteria for acceptance into the World Federation includes a last-round performance with a professional symphony, such as the San Antonio Symphony; a minimum of four of seven judges from outside the United States; and hosting at least two international piano competitions prior to applying for membership.
“Founded in 1957, the World Federation of International Music Competitions is dedicated to establishing a global network of internationally recognized organizations that through public competition discover the most promising young talents in the great tradition of classical music and further their careers by presenting them before distinguished juries, general audiences, the media, and the rest of the music community.” WFIMC is a member of the International Council of Music founded by UNESCO in 1949; The Council “promotes access to music for all and the value of music in the lives of all people.”
Ruth Jean Gurwitz (1929-2015), a woman of great beauty and musical ability, was born in San Antonio, TX on Feb. 5, 1929.
RJ, as she was known to her friends, displayed an enormous musical talent at a young age. She began playing the piano by ear at age three, which led to a lifelong commitment to music performance and education.
Ruth Jean was well remembered at Jefferson High School for her piano recitals. She graduated Stephens College, and attended the University of Texas and the Music Academy of the West. She received a degree in piano from Incarnate Word College.
As a young woman, Ruth Jean was a piano teacher and a volunteer for Jewish communal organizations. She also began her decades of support for San Antonio musical organizations including the San Antonio Chamber Music Society, the Tuesday Musical Club, KPAC public radio, and the San Antonio International Piano Competition, of which she was a founder and long-time president.
Ruth Jean’s lifelong association with music included her family’s founding of Southern Music Company, a San Antonio musical institution, and known worldwide in the music community. She enjoyed hosting and traveling to meet musicians and music industry leaders from across the country and around the world.
Ruth Jean was an extraordinary performer, capable of playing any work after hearing it just once, or even having someone hum a few bars. She was a devotee of classical music but also relished improvisational jazz, playing with accomplished musicians. And she took great pleasure in performing duets with her grandchildren.
An important element of The Gurwitz mission is to encourage the development of pianists in Greater San Antonio and Texas through the Gurwitz Youth Ambassador program. Young pianists represent Musical Bridges Around the World & The Gurwitz to showcase the positive experiences music can bring to people of all ages and backgrounds in our community.
Ambassadors are 19 years of age or younger and come with highest recommendation from their piano teachers. Ambassadors are asked to play seasonal music or a short recital, to attend or participate in a master class, or to speak with students about how they chose to play piano. These aspiring young pianists play for crowds large or small and serve as the “Opening Act” for Gurwitz-sponsored recitals by professional pianists. Youth Ambassadors receive certificates for their work and are included by Musical Bridges Around the World in select activities with international artists throughout the concert season.