Honens was founded by philanthropist Esther Honens—a music-lover, amateur pianist and proud Calgarian. She envisioned an international musical festival in her beloved city that would be meaningful for the world's finest emerging pianists and a source of pride for Calgarians and all Canadians. In 1991, Mrs Honens made a gift of $5 million to endow The Esther Honens International Piano Competition Foundation. The inaugural Honens Competition took place in 1992. Esther Honens passed away at age 89—five days after seeing her dream come true.
The Esther Honens International Piano Competition Foundation fund is maintained and administered by The Calgary Foundation.