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TCU Magazine Feature

Related stories:  Three's charm |Tadashi Imai |Anton Mordasov

Yuri Blinov

By Nancy Bartosek

Yuri Blinov's most memorable, and most expensive birthday present, arrived in 1980, the year he turned 6 . . . a piano.

Whether his loving parents realized it or not, they had just handed little Yuri his future. The gifted boy only knew that now his deep yearning could become a reality.

"From early on, I felt a very strong passion to compose music," the 25-year-old Belarussian pianist said. "Sometimes it was a problem because rather than learning technique and practicing, I was spending hours composing and improvising."

Not lately. Blinov now spends every moment preparing for the Cliburn. And while competition isn't his favorite, he knows time to compose will come later. It's a place he's deeply grateful to be.

In 1999, Blinov had reached the top of the piano world in his home country. When Tamas Ungar approached him after a not-so-great performance in the 2nd China International Competition in Beijing, he leapt at the chance to study in America.

Ungar said despite Blinov's mediocre showing that day, he saw something extraordinary in the young pianist's performance.

His instincts were right. Blinov took home the top prize -- and a brand new Steinway Grand -- in March in the Music Teachers National Competition. Now Blinov is in line for the Cliburn.

"Life is such a curious thing," Blinov said, a grin forming on his face. "If several years ago someone had told me I would be studying in America and win the Steinway, I would just have laughed."

Studying with Ungar has taught the intense young man to inject his own style into his performances.

"He is very demanding, but he is also very human," Blinov said. "He knows technically I can play anything but my imagination and creativity is quite considerable. The task is to put everything together.

"This is the man who is helping me do that."