Kevin Kenner, a 27-year-old graduate of the Peabody Institute, was denied first prize in the Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw last weekend. But that doesn't diminish the fact that his second prize was the top honor given this year -- an achievement that puts him in distinguished company. The last American to come out on top in the Chopin trials was Garrick Ohlsson in 1970. The second prize that year went to Mitsuko Uchida, the Japanese pianist whose career has since surpassed Ohlsson's, in large part on the strength of her exquisite Mozart performances and recordings.
The Chopin competition, held every five years, is considered one of the two most prestigious such contests in the world. (In the other one, the Tchaikovsky competition held last summer, Kenner placed third.) His achievement has provided him the publicity and credentials to build a successful concert career. And for aspiring young musicians, his accomplishments will draw attention to the training that enabled him to get to the top. For that reason, the Peabody Institute, where Kenner spent five important years studying with Leon Fleisher, is also a winner.