By Jesse Bertel

Stephenson started piano lessons at age 7, and the next year was accepted into The Julliard School’s Music Advancement program – a full scholarship program for under-represented students – where he fell in love with music.

“I grew up in a single-parent household and according to my mom, I was very rowdy and was running around and she said that she needed, you know, some time away from me just to rest,” Stephenson said. “She was looking into babysitters and she saw that the babysitter prices were like $30 an hour and there was this Chinatown, like basement music school. It was an extra $5, like $35 an hour for a piano teacher. So, she thought, you know, with five extra dollars, I’m learning a craft. So, she signed me up.”

Being a finalist in the Cliburn competition last year was a major milestone in Stephenson’s piano career.

“The Cliburn competition is, I think, one of the biggest international piano competitions in the world and it’s honoring Van Cliburn, who is, I think, one of the premier American pianists,” Stephenson said. “I’ve always been associated with the Cliburn because I’ve wanted to do this big competition since I was young. They actually had a junior competition back in 2015. That was their inaugural one. I attended that and I became a jury discretionary award winner.”

After performing as a child in the same hall where the top piano players compete, Stephenson became determined to return for the full competition.

“I kind of made a decision or a goal to want to compete in the big finals and with a stroke of luck, I actually made it,” Stephenson said. “So, for me, I think it’s, you know, having a goal, a dream, and then having it come true and then exceeding your expectations.”

Stephenson will play the following pieces at the performance:

Scriabin – Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp Major, op.30

Beethoven – Sonata No. 23 in F minor, op. 57 (Appassionata)

Gershwin – Say – “Summertime” Variations

Uehara – The Tom and Jerry Show

Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition

Concert tickets are only available in advance by contacting the Yavapai Symphony Association, at (928) 776-4255, or at 228 N. Alarcon St., Prescott. Tickets may also be purchased at the door prior to each concert.

For more information about Clayton Stephenson, visit

For more information about the Cliburn, visit

Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.

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