About Us

The Virginia Waring International Piano Competition

The Virginia Waring International Piano Competition (aka The Waring) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Tax ID # 33-0025613, located in Palm Desert, California.

The Waring brings classical piano music to the California Desert through outreach concerts to schools, the community; by presenting performances at local venues such as The McCallum Theatre and Coachella Valley Repertory, and by hosting eight days of an international piano competition every other year with participants coming from around the world.

All first rounds of the Competition are free to the public (approximately 36  hours), with low ticket prices for the Solo Finals and for the Concerto Finals with Orchestra at The McCallum. Performance opportunities and cash prizes are awarded to the winners.

The Key Players is a membership group that hosts intimate at home recitals and presents educational seminars for the public.

Contestants participate in both solo and concerto events as well as Master Classes in each age category-

Junior (pianists through age 12)
Intermediate (pianists ages 13 through 17)
Senior (pianists ages 18 through 30)

Winners have earned performance opportunities in Vienna, London, Rome, Carnegie Hall (NYC), Florida, Denver, Snowmass, San Francisco, as well as Palm Springs and Palm Desert, California.

A special category in the Senior Division between 2005 and 2015 was devoted to performances of the music of Ernst Krenek, the Austrian composer who for many years made the desert his home.  Sponsored by the Krenek Society and the composer’s widow, the winner in this category performed in Vienna and in Steyr, Austria.

In 2011, The Waring began offering a John Bayless prize for the Junior and Intermediate Divisions. And in 2017 the Senior division included Best Earl Wild Transcription prize.

Venue Partners for the Competition are the Indian Wells Theater on the Palm Desert Campus of the California State University, San Bernardino and  The McCallum Theatre. Community support includes a large cadre of volunteers who provide housing for competitors and transportation and other services throughout the competition.  The Competition is governed by an active Board of Directors.

Home city of the Competition is The City of Palm Desert.   Additional support has come from the Sirpuhe & John Conte Foundation, the Philibosian Foundation, Highland Street Foundation and from philanthropists Harold Matzner, Donna MacMillan and JoAnn McGrath. Numerous competition awards are underwritten by local patrons and foundations. SoCal Piano  is the official competition piano.

In 2015 John Bayless was named Artistic Director after Dr. Patricia Taylor Lee retired, having served since 2004.

Founding donors were The Annenberg Foundation, the HN and Frances C. Berger Foundation, the McCarthy Family Foundation, JoAnn McGrath and her Foundation, the City of Palm Desert, The City of Rancho Mirage, and the City of Indian Wells. Education Sponsor from 2007 through 2015 was Wells Fargo – The Private Bank.