Eric Zuber and the Cliburn

Nick Romeo continues his coverage on From the Top alumni in the Van Cliburn Competition. Eric Zuber, who appeared on Show 7  when he was 14, was one of six From the Top alumni to enter the preliminary round. 

Eric Zuber, 28 Photo: The Cliburn/Ralph Lauer

Eric Zuber, 28
Photo: The Cliburn/Ralph Lauer

(Q): How have you enjoyed the Cliburn?

It’s been a long time, but a very good experience. They’re very well organized. And my host family is taking very good care of me. I was awfully uptight in the recital rounds. Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don’t. It doesn’t say much about your caliber as an artist, it’s just one of those things. Unfortunately at a high level it’s very difficult to delineate what should make someone advance. It’s not like a tennis match with a clear objective goal and an obvious winner and loser.

(Q): Do you do a lot of competitions?

I’m almost 28, and between 21 and now I probably averaged 2 to 3 competitions a year. For someone like me who was not born into the music business it’s hard to get recognition without doing them. I don’t like them personally, I don’t know anyone who does. But I have had amazing experiences by doing competitions. I’ve traveled to Australia, Korea, and all around Israel. I wish it could have been for concerts instead of competitions, but that’s how life is.

(Q): What was your preparation like for this competition?

Unfortunately I didn’t have six months or a year to focus on the Cliburn. I had to learn repertoire really quickly. It basically takes every day all day, and knowing that it takes every day, that you don’t get nights or weekends, it puts a strain on you. It takes total dedication to be at the level you need to be so that you don’t embarrass yourself. It’s a laborious process and it can kind of lessen your inspiration. I left the hobby phase long ago, but I’d much prefer spending hours a day at the piano than crunching numbers or something.

(Q): What do you remember about being on From The Top?

I remember pretty much everything about it. It was a good experience; I was really happy to have done it. I played one of the same pieces that I played here: a Rachmaninov Prelude.

(Q): What are your plans for the future?

I’m getting a DMA at Peabody. I’ll be starting my second year of that in the fall. This past year I put off school for a year to compete. I definitely want to take a break from competing for a while. I need to rethink what I want to do. Getting money for concerts will be more difficult without big prizes, but I think I need to refresh myself. It’s been a really long and tough stretch for me. I think I deserve it.

Nick Romeo’s most recent book is Driven: Six Incredible Musical Journeys. Read more at