2020 Piano Competition

At this point, the schedule for the 2020 Piano Competition has not changed. For updates regarding the impact of COVID-19 on our 2020 Season, please visit our homepage.

Now in its 13th year, The Princeton Festival Piano Competition attracts well over a hundred young artists, ages 6 to 24, from the tri-state area, nationally, and even internationally.

Adjudicated by distinguished conservatory faculty members and accomplished concert performers, this competition provides useful written comments for all participants, with a challenge trophy and cash prize to the winners in each category.

Please read these rules carefully before emailing [email protected] with any further questions.


Sponsored by Jacobs Music, the region’s exclusive retailer of Steinway & Sons pianos, also representing Yamaha and other fine pianos.


Contestants must play one selection from the pieces specified for that category.

Note: The Princeton Festival does not encourage or endorse the use of photocopied music. It is the contestant’s responsibility to ensure that any music downloaded from internet sources is in the public domain in the USA.

Elementary Artists (ages 6-9)

  • Reinecke: Prelude (1st mvt.) from Serenade in C Op. 183 #1 (ABRSM grade 3)
  • Bach: Kleine Präludien in D minor BWV 926
  • Kabalevsky: Sonatina in A minor op. 27 #18

Intermediate Artists (ages 10-12)

  • Haydn: Finale: Presto (3rd mvt) from Sonata in A Hob. XVI/26 (ABRSM grade 4)
  • Mel Bonis: Meditation Op. 33 No. 1
  • Mendelssohn: Songs without Words Op. 102 #3 C major

Junior Artists (ages 13-15)

  • Khachaturian: Allegro giocoso (1st mvt) from Sonatina in C (ABRSM grade 7)
  • Chopin: Nocturne in F minor Op. 55 #1
  • Saint-Saëns: Prelude Op. 72 #1

Senior Artists (ages 16-18)

  • Rachmaninoff: Elégie Op. 3 #1 (ABRSM grade 8)
  • Liszt: Harmonies du soir Transcendental Etude #11
  • Glinka/Balakirev: L’Alouette (The Lark)

Piano Four-Hands (under 25)

  • Fauré: Berceuse from Dolly Suite Op. 56 #1
  • Schubert: Polonaise in F major D599 Op. 75 #4
  • Moszkowski: Spanish Dance Op. 12 #5

Open Class (under 25)

The Open Class is designed to allow outstanding emerging artists to compete outside of an age restricted class. The level of performance expected in the Open Category is at or above the ABRSM Diploma level. Parents and teachers are advised to consider whether entering this class is appropriate for their child/student.

The contestant must choose one solo work (not a concerto, not a test piece from another category) of under 10 minutes from the list of composers below.

Albeniz, J. S. Bach, Barber, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Ginastera, Liszt, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Schubert, Schumann, Scriabin, Stravinsky, or an original composition (not an arrangement) by any contemporary composer. A contemporary composer is defined, in this case, by someone who is still living today.

10 minutes is the maximum time allotted, not the goal. Performances lasting longer than 10 minutes will be disqualified.

Contestants in the Open Category may also enter another age-specific class with payment of the application fee for each class entered.

Contestants must email [email protected] no later than on Saturday, May 23, 2020 to specify their piece. No repertoire changes will be permitted once the choice is submitted. The contestant must provide two (2) copies of his or her piece for the adjudicators on the day of the competition.

One movement of a sonata, or one or more movements of a suite, may be performed in this category as long as it falls within the time limit. Movements of concerti are not eligible for this class.



  1. The Princeton Festival Piano Competition is open to pianists of any nationality or state of residence.
  2. Pianists may enter more than one category according to their age on the date of the finals, June 14th, 2020.
  3. Contestants who are students or relatives of the adjudicators, or any Princeton Festival official may not enter the competition.



Schedule and Location

  1. The 2020 Princeton Festival Piano Competition will be held on June 13 and June 14.
  2. The location of the competition is the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center at Westminster Choir College in the heart of Princeton.
  3. There is no pre-screening. Everyone who applies and pays the fee is automatically accepted into the preliminary round of the competition.
  4. By applying to the competition, performers, teachers and parents understand that the student must be available to perform at his or her scheduled time on June 13 for the preliminary round, and finalists must be available on June 14, 2020. The preliminary round may take all day; therefore applicants must keep the entire day open until they receive their scheduled time.
  5. An official of The Princeton Festival will set all schedules. Scheduling of specific time slots will take place after the deadline for applications, May 4, 2020. Contestants may not choose their performance time slot.
  6. Once scheduled for the preliminary round, no changes in the date and time may be made. Contestants may not swap times with other performers. The competition manager reserves the right to arrange times within Categories. Competitors are required to arrive and register 20 minutes before their scheduled start time. It is the responsibility of the competitor to allow adequate travel time.
  7. Late arrivals cannot be accommodated.
  8. All rounds of the competition will be open to the public. There is no charge to attend the preliminary rounds; the final round is a ticketed event.


  1. Contestants in the Open Class may submit an application on or before the May 4, 2020 deadline without specifying a piece. However, the contestant must specify the piece they will be playing no later than Saturday, May 23, 2020. The piece may not be a test piece from another category. No repertoire changes will be permitted once the choice is submitted.
  2. Contestants of all age categories other than the Open Class need not specify which piece they will play until the day of the competition preliminaries.
  3. No repertoire exceptions are allowed. Each competitor must prepare one piece from the list provided for that age category.
  4. The test piece must be performed from memory and in its entirety, with the exception of the Four-Hands category where using music is permitted.


  1. The competition will be judged by two professional pianists/teachers appointed by the Artistic Director of The Princeton Festival. The identity of the adjudicators will not be revealed to the applicants prior to the competition.
  2. The adjudicators will only know the contestants by a randomly selected number until the results of the finals are announced.
  3. Contestants, teachers, parents and relatives are not permitted to have any contact with the adjudicators by any means until after the end of the finals.
  4. Contestants, teachers, parents and relatives may not reveal the name of a contestant’s teacher to the Adjudication Panel until after winners are announced at the finals. Failure to comply with this may result in disqualification.
  5. In the event that there are too few applicants in a particular age group, the adjudicators may advance those applicants directly to the finals.
  6. The adjudicators reserve the right to declare no winner in any category, as they deem appropriate.
  7. The adjudicators may provide a few general oral comments after the preliminary round of each age category, before the finalists for that category are announced.
  8. Written comments from the adjudicators will be emailed to all teachers following the preliminary round of the competition.
  9. The adjudicators’ decisions are final and may not be challenged.


  1. The piano used for all rounds of the competition is a Steinway model B or D.
  2. Limited practice/warm up rooms are available for the competition on a first come-first served basis. Competitors will be asked to limit their time to 10 minutes if other competitors are waiting for practice space.
  3. Practice on the piano used for the competition is not possible, as it is impractical to provide equal practice time to all contestants on the instrument. However, on the day of the finals, if requested, finalists will be permitted a strictly enforced period of 5 minutes to acclimate to the instrument prior to the start of the final round of the competition.

Additional Rules & Regulations

  1. All contestants must give credit for all awards/prizes won at The Princeton Festival Piano Competition in all future publicity.
  2. The competition reserves the right, without payment of fees, to photograph and record and distribute photographs and recordings for media and other purposes, including for local press, social media, and direct mail, as well as to televise, broadcast, film, record, videotape, photograph or live stream all stages of the competition.
  3. Relatives and/or friends of each competitor are permitted to take photos and record that competitor’s performance only. Anyone found recording more than one or two performances may be asked to leave, as well as anyone whose recording interferes with the running of the competition.
  4. Contestants are financially responsible for their travel to and from the competition.
  5. Housing is not provided. However, the Festival staff can assist with finding housing for out-of-town competitors.
  6. By applying to the competition, performers agree to abide by all the rules and regulations of The Princeton Festival Piano Competition. Applicants will be disqualified at any phase of the competition when non-compliance with any part of the rules and regulations occurs or is discovered.
  7. The competition reserves the right to make necessary changes as circumstances dictate.

Questions regarding any aspect of the competition should be addressed to [email protected] and should be submitted by the teacher.


Application Deadline

  1. The deadline for online applications, including electronic submission of supporting materials, is 11:59 pm on Monday, May 4, 2020.
  2. You will receive an auto email response acknowledging receipt of your application.

Application Fee

The application fee for each category is $50 (for the four hands category, it is one $50 fee) and $75 for the Open Category. This fee is non-refundable even if the contestant withdraws from the competition.

Application Form – including payment and submission of supporting materials

Applications must be submitted online. Applicants wishing to enter more than one category may do so on a single form. Acknowledgment of receipt of the Application Form will be sent automatically to the parent by email.

You will need the following information at hand in order to submit the Application:

  • Teacher’s contact information – phone, email and address
  • Supporting materials – Digital files (DOC/DOCX, JPG/JPEG, PDF, XLS/XLSX) for proof of age and the biography of the artist are required attachments for the form to be submitted
  • Payment – through PayPal, which also accepts credit cards

The fee for each category must be paid through PayPal, which also accepts MasterCard, VISA, Discover or American Express; no PayPal account is required. This fee is non-refundable even if the contestant withdraws from the competition.


Please read these rules carefully before emailing [email protected] with any further questions.

Thank you for your interest!