I find myself completely fascinated by the passion for music that makes people want to continue to be a part of music making: I understand it, of course, because I have made music my life because of my own passion for it. How much more difficult to keep it in your life when you have, for whatever reason, followed a different path but are able to continue to pursue it at a high level.
I think that the popularity of the amateur piano competition circuit (and this is an international phenomenon) is a wonderful testament to the power of music to inspire and motivate. In terms of value, I think the competition offers these pianists an opportunity to know like-minded people, to share their music with an audience that understands and appreciates their passion, to give a goal to work toward, to stimulate creativity and striving.
I’m not sure that the distinction between “amateur” and “professional” is particularly meaningful from an artistic point of view. After all, when J.S. Bach dedicated his Clavier Ubung to “Liebhabern,” he was referring to what we call “amateurs.” And the pianists for whom Haydn wrote his late sonatas (Marianne von Genzinger, Theresa Bartolozzi) were “amateurs” as well. The potential for wonderful, inspired music-making is not limited to those of us who make performance our “profession” – in the best sense, we should all be “amateurs” – people who do it for love.