The first cluster of contestants in the Kerikeri International Piano Competition have arrived and all have covered considerable distances to get there.

The first Canadian to enter the competition, Samuel Deason, arrived from Baltimore, United States, where he studies at the Peabody Institute.

He crossed the US, flew to New Zealand from Los Angeles and arrived in Kerikeri earlier than expected by car.

Fanya Lin is another contestant who was born elsewhere (Taiwan) but now studies in the US.


She is completing her first year as a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota. She has appeared at New York's renowned Carnegie Hall and has given recitals in Taipei.

Ms Lin flew from Minnesota to Los Angeles then on to Auckland before arriving by plane to Kerikeri yesterday.

She arrived in Kerikeri on the same flight as Ukrainian-born Elina Akselrud who had flown from Switzerland, where she is studying, although she divides her time between there and Italy.

Joining them on Air New Zealand's first flight to the Bay of Islands in the morning was Chanyeong Yang from South Korea. He had flown from Seoul to Shanghai and from there took a direct flight to Auckland before hopping on the Bay of Islands commuter flight.

He studies at Kookmin University in Seoul and has performed in his own country as well as the US and France.

Most aspiring classical pianists lead peripatetic lifestyles for study or performance but, given there are literally hundreds of piano competitions closer to their home bases, why choose Kerikeri?

Chanyeong Yang replies with a sniff. "Smell the fresh air," he said as he disembarked.

"I had seen photos on websites and New Zealand always looks so interesting to me, so that's why I am here, and to enjoy what looks like a nice music festival."

Ms Lin said one of her best friends, Yiyang Chen from Taiwan, had made the cut in the competition so that was an incentive in part, but she had wanted to visit New Zealand "for some time".

As a self-confessed "Tolkien geek", Elina Akselrud said the opportunity to come to New Zealand, to see the home of Hobbiton, was what first drew her to entering the Kerikeri competition.

All other contestants will be in town by today.