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The Ross McKee Piano Competition

The Ross McKee Piano Competition has been a signature project of the Ross McKee Foundation each year since 1998.  Launched by the Foundation’s highly respected first executive director, John Cron, the competition celebrates the talents of young piano virtuosi in the San Francisco Bay Area and has become one of the premiere piano competitions for young artists in the Bay Area.  

Over the past 25 years, seven hundred teenage pianists have applied to enter the competition, and, of them, 148 young artists have emerged. We call them the McKee Laureates. They have received $152,000 in prize money as well as performance opportunities, professional-level recordings, and videos of their performances.  Many have continued their piano studies at conservatories and major universities across the country and some now have established careers as performers, educators and faculty members of major music conservatories and universities. They are an extraordinary group, not only because of their awesome talent, but also because of their serious dedication to music.  They perform the most difficult piano repertoire with the aplomb of artists twice their age.


2022 was the 25th anniversary of the competition, and to mark the milestone we expanded eligibility beyond the Bay Area to teenage pianists from all of Northern California.

The Ross McKee Foundation

The Ross McKee Foundation has operated as a private nonprofit foundation committed to education and performance and has created an impressive history of support for the piano culture in the Bay Area. The Foundation is now celebrating its 30-year anniversary. 

The McKee Foundation has given more than $2.5 million in grants to hundreds of pianists and music organizations in the Bay Area and it conceived and continues to produce the respected annual Ross McKee Piano Competition for young Bay Area pianists, awarding $152,000 in cash prizes and $100,000 in scholarships.

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Ross McKee (1915-1987)

The Foundation has endeavored, through its grants and projects, to realize the original mission that Ross McKee set forth: “to enrich our lives with beauty and understanding through the language of music.” Working to support local arts presenters and organizations that produce concerts and commission new works for piano, funding music education and piano lessons in schools, awarding scholarships to young pianists and composers, and even directly supporting individual local pianists through the difficult years of the pandemic, the Ross McKee Foundation continues its efforts to enrich our lives with beauty and understanding.

Ross McKee (1915-1987)

Pianist, Pedagogue & Founder of the Music & Arts Institute of San Francisco (1939-1989)

Ross McKee was born in 1915 and spent his early years in Everett, Washington. He studied piano leading to his graduation from the Manning School of Music. His teachers included Ernst von Dohnanyi, Alexander Tcherepnin, Paul Pierre McNeely, John Crogan Manning, Wager Swayne, and Rosalyn Tureck. He began teaching piano in San Francisco in 1931 and performed in the Bay Area as well as throughout the United States.


Ross McKee founded the Music and Arts Institute of San Francisco in 1939. Originally, it was affiliated with the music department of Golden Gate College until the school was incorporated as an independent music college. In 1949, Music and Arts moved to its beautiful historical location on Alta Plaza in Pacific Heights in a building designed by the distinguished architect, Willis Polk. The Institute offered a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degree programs. Upon Ross McKee’s death, the Board of Directors closed the school, sold the property, and under the executive directorship of John Cron, launched The Ross McKee Foundation for the Musical Arts in 1992, which created a legacy of support for talented young artists and arts organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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