Converse alumna Ann Herlong ’51 recently won third place in the prestigious Fourth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs sponsored by the Van Cliburn Foundation in Fort Worth Texas. On September 12, she will return to Converse for a free performance in Daniel Recital Hall at 3 p.m.
STILL STRIKING THE RIGHT NOTE
by Steven Brown of The Charlotte Observer
It’s usually a put-down to call someone an amateur. If you check the dictionary, though, you may get a surprise: It comes from the Latin word for a person who does something out of love. Many of us may have lost track of that. But Ann Herlong is here to show us what it means.
Two years ago, she entered a competition for amateur pianists, progressed no further than the first round, and still described it as “a wonderful experience.” So she went back for more.
The contest-the International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, an offshoot of the famous Van Cliburn contest for pros-rolled around again earlier this month in Fort Worth, Texas, and Ann was back. She vied with 71 other pianists. This time, she lasted.
“When I was chosen for the final six, I thought, ‘It can’t get any better than this,'” she said. But it could.
When she was called onstage at the awards ceremony to collect the prize for the best performance of a Baroque piece, “I was elated,” Ann said. Then, “As soon as I sat down,” she continued, “they started announcing the winners. And they said, ‘Third place, Ann Herlong,’ I was just overcome.”
“I can’t tell you the feeling I had. It was indescribable… Besides getting married and having my children, it was the best night of my life. I can’t think of anything that has been more exciting and meaningful to me.”
Obviously, there’s a lot more to this than the $1,000 she got for third place and the $250 she won with J.S. Bach.
Learning From Mom
Ann got her first tips about playing the piano when she was small enough to sit at the keyboard on her mother’s lap. Her mother, a member of Winthrop University’s Class of 1924, was an accomplished-enough pianist that in her senior year she was picked to solo with the Minneapolis Symphony when it came through Rock Hill on tour. She married and set up shop teaching piano.
“A lot of people in Rock Hill-even if they didn’t go into music-learned an appreciation of classical music because of her,” Ann said.
Her only child certainly did. It was all informal, though. “I never had structured lessons,” Ann said. “She would just sit with me every night and help me. I used to think, ‘Why can’t I have lessons like all my friends do?’ And now I think, ‘My goodness, look at w