Kyung Wha Chung speaks out against competitions

There’s a great quote from the iconic violinist Kyung Wha Chung in the latest BBC Music Magazine (June 2017) which I think is worth sharing here in passing, as it ties in with a theme that has recurred on Pianodao.

Talking about the young players who seek her advice she says:

“They say they’re going to enter this competition or that.
But this is the wrong route.
How many competitions are there on this planet? How many winners are there?
Do they all have a career – meaning a career when you become a star, so to speak? No.”

Kyung Wha Chung’s simple words sum up the futility of a competition circuit which crushes the aspirations of too many players (and one discouraged young performer is one too many in my view). The violin world – just like the piano world – offers dozens of “international” competitions each year (on the piano it ranges between 50-100 depending on the year) – each claiming it can transform a young artist’s career prospects.

And as the internationally acclaimed cellist Julian Lloyd-Webber recently told The Times (also reported in The Telegraph) the majority of music competitions are corrupt in any case, with judges colluding and using competitions merely to promote their own pupils and careers:

“Everyone knows it, but no one says it, because when you’re in the profession, you don’t…
There are obvious exceptions, such as BBC Young Musician of the Year, which is not corrupt at all, but you have these competitions for violins, cello, piano and it’s all about who you studied with.”

So many alternatives…

The subject of competitions is one which I have written about here many times, most recently (and fully) in my post The Competitions Controversy.

We can but hope that moving forward the music business and education world will continue to embrace change and look to creative positive alternatives for developing artists.

The interview with Kyung Wha Chung is well worth reading in its entirety, and particularly focusses on her return to the concert stage after injury, and her present focus on performing the music of J.S. Bach – recommended!