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The Cliburn: Thirty ridiculously talented pianists, one stage.

If our childhood years of piano lessons taught us anything, it?s probably that we?re not exactly Mozart.

Luckily, we can use the words piano and talent in the same breath again, because the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition kicks off this Friday at Fort Worth?s Bass Performance Hall.

Hailed as one of the most prestigious classical-music competitions in the world, the Cliburn pits 30 of the best international pianists under the age of 30 against one another in an elimination-style showdown judged by a 13-member jury.

The accomplished pianists are practically babies--some are as young as 19 (Japan?s Tomoki Sakata), and this year, national pride is sure to surge as seven Americans will compete, including Dallas?s Alex McDonald.

In our favorite round, 12 performers give 60-minute solo recitals plus chamber-music concerts with the Brentano String Quartet. (Is there anything better than Brahms?s Quintet in F Minor Op. 34?)

No ticket? (They range from $10 for the preliminaries to $135 for the finals.) No worries--you can watch live performances online.

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