FESTIVAL HONORS A RANGE OF KEYBOARD ARTISTS

* Irving Gilmore first earned a reputation for philanthropy by delivering expensive pianos to poor families whose children showed musical promise. Now, with a biannual keyboard festival in his memory, the department-store magnate from Kalamazoo, Mich. - a 1925 graduate of the Yale University School of Music - will always be associated with fine pianists.

After Gilmore's death in 1986, his heirs founded the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and the $500,000 Gilmore Artist Award (see related story).

The 1994 Gilmore Artist, Finnish classical pianist Ralf Gothoni, is the second winner. In 1990, the first Gilmore prize was awarded to English soloist David Owen Norris.

The nine-day festival in Kalamazoo lasts from April 23 to May 1, and will feature performances by keyboard players in all genres: from bluesman Ray Charles to classical maestro Krystian Zimmerman. In addition, the festival will include concerts and master classes expected to attract an international audience of 45,000. The festival takes place every two years, but the next Gilmore Artist Award won't be offered until 2000.

``We don't want to flood the market with Gilmore winners,'' says David Pocock, artistic director of the festival. ``We want it to really mean something.''

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