For those who want to play professionally, the publicity and performance opportunities provided by winning a major music competition can be valuable to launching a musical career. Other musicians strongly disagree (such as cellist, Stephen Isserlis). But just what are the judges looking for when it comes to music competitions? We listened to a selection of judges who shared their views and here are their top tips:
- Many competitions want an audio recording submitted with the entry form. Think professional – this should be of excellent technical quality, not recorded on your friend’s phone (after all, this is your first opportunity to make an impression).
- Choose your pieces carefully and do your research. Some competitions may have traditions that mean that certain styles of pieces win. Most will ask you to select a concerto/piece from a list and more frequently competitors are being asked to prepare a second piece of their own choice. Pick one that is the strongest piece for you and which will show your musical personality.
- You need to be well prepared technically, this is initially what the judges are looking for. After that they will be listening for the message you are conveying through the music.
- Have a singing voice and a dancing rhythm!
- Develop an individual sound. Many players are playing to technical perfection but lack the individuality and the something new that the judges are ultimately looking for. Develop a general cultural knowledge and look at other art media and see what else was being created at that time, it can give you a different perspective.
- Be convincing with your playing and with your choice of pieces. You need to think what you want to convey to the audience.
- This is a performance – think stage presence. Also, don’t forget to acknowledge your pianist/conductor.
- Be aware of what effect nerves will have on you and know how to deal with this. Good preparation will help nerves!
- Finally, don’t be disheartened if you don’t win. The judges aren’t always right!
- The competition world is a small bubble. Even if you do win, stay connected to the the outside world and what music is really all about.
For a list of UK classical music competitions 2020, click here.