One of my activities this summer was a visit to our nation's capitol, mixing business and pleasure. Over a hot summer weekend, while the rest of the family went on day-long hikes to the monuments and various Smithsonian museums, I spent the days listening to wonderful amateur pianists, competing in the Washington International Piano Artist Competition. The Gardeckis are the main force behind the event. Being Washington DC, a number of foreign embassies were involved, as hosts for the various stages of the competition and for dinners and parties. The Finnish Embassy, a beautiful wood and glass structure in the woods across from the Vice-President's residency, hosted the semi-finals. The Maison Francaise hosted the finals and awards dinner. The Polish Embassy gave the competition a send-off by hosting my recital. At the same time, the concert was a send-off for the cultural attache, Mariusz Brymora, who is now back in Warsaw after a multi-year stint in the US. The level of playing was remarkable, as was the adventurous programming. It should be required of all professional pianists and wannabe professionals to attend an amateur competition, where the dedication and focus on craft and communication is so vividly palpable. Of course there are mistakes, memory slips, uneven passagework, etc. There are the same in a professional event as well. What is important is the complete involvement of the players, and by osmosis then, the involvement of the audience and the judges. Congratulations to all of the pianists who played. I enjoyed meeting all of you, and look forward to seeing you again soon!