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USD hosts the 27th annual Truran Piano Competition

Eighteen contestants from South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa met this year for the 27th annual Truran Piano Competition.

Alessandra Feris, an assistant piano professor, said the goal of the competition is to get young pianists to come to USD and be a part of the music department. She said they accept applications from students eighth through twelfth grade, with each grade level having different expectations.

“So each (student) competes at a different level,” Feris said “Let’s say the eighth graders are going to be in a specific level while the twelfth graders are going to be in another level and for the twelfth graders. They can consider the competition as a scholarship audition to join our piano program.”

Professor Susan Gray said that the competition was judged by Dr. Agustin Muriago and students who participated have come from all over the region.

“We get students from Omaha or into Iowa and not usually terribly far away. They can be from all over the state of South Dakota. We do sometimes get students coming from Rapid City, but not always, usually more from Sioux City or Sioux Falls. And then, like I said, Omaha or down in Nebraska and around in Iowa,” Gray said. “Teachers in the area know about this competition and for them, it’s a real positive because it provides a performance opportunity for their students and particularly their more talented students.” 

Niu Niu Zhang, a tenth grader who participated in the piano competition and received first place in her grade level, said she was excited to hear the other contestants compete and to perform her piece in the new Colton Recital Hall. 

“I’ve been practicing every day and I’ve been practicing performing at home so I’ve been running through my pieces in order and that kind of thing. I’m excited to hear the other contestants and see how they’re doing and it’s going to be fun to listen to other people play I think,” Zhang said. 

Gray said the competition is named after Genevieve Truran, a professor who taught piano at USD and in the area for more than 60 years. When Truran passed away, her family gave money to USD which was used to help with the expense of running the competition and the scholarship. Majorie Rawlins studied alongside Truran at USD and made a donation to help continue giving out the Truran Piano scholarship to twelfth grade students.

“There was a story that she didn’t know how much money she had in her fund, and in her bank account or something when she died. So she gave the money to USD and then it ended up being more than she thought,” Gray said. “Marjorie Rawlins studied with Miss Truran and also made a huge donation to the Trojan scholarship account. So that really increases the amount of money in the account so we’re able to forward scholarships from that account, as well as the expenses for running this competition.”