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The outcome of the Indianapolis was not a scandal, but the reaction to it might be

Laurie Niles

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Published: September 24, 2014 at 6:37 AM [UTC]

Having spent a week in Indianapolis watching the finals of the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, I'd like to share my thoughts on the competition, and also on the "controversy" over jury members having former and current students in the running.

IndyFirst: the laureates were the violinists who deserved to win. One could quibble with the order among the very top finalists, but this would be a matter of taste. The whole competition was as triumph for excellence in violin-playing, and the violinists who consistently played best through all rounds were the ones who won. There was nothing fishy about the level of their artistry. A great number of extremely good, even great, violinists did not win prizes or advance to the finals. That was because of an abundance of talent at this competition.

The contestants were asked to prepare more than two hours' worth of music. Much has been made of a few bobbles that lasted a few seconds. In live performance, it is not unusual for even the finest violinists to bobble a note, misplace a shift, or suffer a memory slip. Nonetheless, there was less of this happening in the finals of this competition than I heard in the last few competitions I've attended. The perfect-note standard for live performance is perhaps the symptom of our scoured-clean recording world. For those who have an eighth-grader's take on judging technical level and artistry, they can find plenty of material to make seconds-long videos of bobbles and mistakes from just about any violinist brave enough to post a truly live performance on the Internet. Might be hard to find with Heifetz, but I bet someone could do it.

The point is that, unless those slip-ups are so frequent as to be a distraction, they don't matter in the larger scheme of two hours' worth of playing. Certainly they show how nerve-wracking the situation of a competition can be, but one slip doesn't get at the overall artistry, intention and technical level of the player.

As far as the integrity of the judging, Indianapolis's system of rules for its competition is beyond anything I've ever seen at any competition anywhere. IVCI already had an extremely detailed policy in place with regard to jurors who have students participating in the competition. In fact, it could be the IVCI's very transparency that allowed its detractors so much ammunition. Every participant's current and past teachers are listed plainly, right under their names in the program. The program also describes the detailed process by which a jury member who has students in the competition would vote. If a jury member has a student in the competition, that jury member does not vote on his or her student, in any round. In other words, they do not submit scores on their own students, at all. (Read the rules online in the competition program. The "scoring procedure" is outlined on page 37.)

A jury member's ability to either submarine or greatly inflate the scores of other contestants is also very limited under the IVCI's system, due to the fact that all scores are recalculated to a common statistical distribution to equalize each juror's score distribution in relationship to one another. Additionally, all scores are reviewed by John MacBain upon submission. (John MacBain designed the computer scoring system used by the IVCI, and you can watch a full interview with him about that system on the Violin Channel.) "Should there be any blatant irregularities; the process is in place to immediately alert me of any anomalies," said IVCI executive director Glen Kwok. "Fortunately, I have never had to experience this scenario." Beyond that, jury members are barred from speaking to any of the contestants for the duration of the competition, which means there is no "coaching."

Jury members grade each violinist after each performance using individualized scorecards, Kwok said. On the card is a place for the “Overall Performance Score” followed by scores for special prizes such as “Best Bach, Best Mozart, Best Beethoven," etc. Jury members may keep all the scorecards until the end of each round so that they can recalibrate scores as they go along as they feel is appropriate. At the end of a round, jury members sit collectively in the jury room to finish and/or finalize their scores before submitting them to Kwok.

"There is absolutely no discussion," Kwok said. "We literally physically collect the bottom half of their scorecards. I then give the cards to our mathematician and inventor of our scoring system, John MacBain, who enters the scores into his computer with the assistance of our auditor, Alerding CPA Group. Alerding CPA Group then issues a letter stating 'We certify that we have observed the counting of the preliminary scores of the 9th Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. The 16 participants advancing to the next round are as follows:' The entire process is audited for complete accuracy and transparency. No one knows the results until the auditor issues the formal letter to me and I announce it first to the Jury."

The "controversy" over the IVCI happened, perhaps not-so-coincidentally, right after the finalists were announced. A lot of people were surprised that Stephen Waarts did not advance to the final rounds, based on his excellent performances in past competitions, particularly his first-place award at the Menuhin Competition earlier this year. He's an excellent player destined for a fine career. Directly following the announcement of the finalists, his teacher, Aaron Rosand, contacted the columnist Norman Lebrecht, as well as the editor of the Violin Channel and me, seeking an outlet for his displeasure over the judging at Indianapolis. Particularly, he wanted to point out the relationship of several judges to students: among the finalists, three were former or current students of juror Miriam Fried and one was a student of Jaime Laredo. Those relationships were neither a revelation nor a secret revealed; they'd been listed in the program and known all along. Because of the high-level system in place for dealing with these potential conflicts-of-interest, jury members took the job, knowing that their students could still enter the competition.

Nonetheless, the fact of their connection proved fodder for Norman Lebrecht's story about the finalists, which began in this way :

"It was brave of the judges at the International Indianapolis Violin Competition to pick an all-women final line-up. Braver still to agree that five of the six finalists should be Korean. Heroic, when half of them are students of one of the judges, Miriam Fried (who must have recused herself from the selection). Now, if these stats look a tad unbalanced, please note that 27 of the 40 selected entrants originated from South Korea, China, Japan or Taiwan. How did that happen? Are we to believe that almost 70 percent of the best young violinists are now bred in the Far East? Or is it that teachers in Korea, China and Japan have learned to work the system, grooming their candidates to pass the entry level? Are any of the entrants, for instance, receiving state or corporate subsidies that are not available to European or North American contenders? The imbalance is so blatant at Indy 2014 that official clarification is required."

He missed on one possible explanation: that these candidates actually played best.

It is true that Miriam Fried did not vote in the final rounds, due to the fact that half of the finalists were current or former students. Jury member Jaime Laredo did vote on five of the six finalists, recusing himself from voting on his student in the finals. IVCI director Kwok describes the reason for this in this way:

"The decision to ask a jury member to recuse herself had nothing to do with online comments or public opinion. (Miriam Fried) was asked to recuse herself entirely in the Classical Finals and Finals simply because of the unprecedented scenario that three of the six finalists were her students. When a person can only vote on three out of six people, the scores cannot provide substantive meaning from a statistical standpoint because there are not enough scores. Therefore, the fairest outcome for all six was for her to recuse herself entirely, which she fully agreed. In Jaime's case, there was no reason for him to recuse himself beyond his own student. He only had one student so he could still effectively vote for the other five people. It would have been very unfair to the five kids if he could not add his opinion to the votes of the rest of the jury."

In other words, having Fried vote on only three finalists while the other jury members voted on five or all six would have skewed her distribution of votes under IVCI's scoring system to the disadvantage of the finalists she did not rate as the best. So, to be fair to them, she could not vote on any, and she removed herself from the jury for the finals.

Is it unusual, for jury members to have students in a competition that they are adjudicating? Not in this competition, and not in others. The only difference seems to be this competition's transparency and very direct policy about it. (And of course, all those Korean women in the finals.)

"In nine competitions, it is not the first time that there were three students or former students of a jury member in attendance, but it was the first time that three students of the same teacher advanced all the way to the Finals," Kwok said. "In order to have a jury of the caliber at the IVCI, they are selected as much as three years in advance of each competition. To make a jury member resign within the last six months of the competition just because their student made it past the screening round would be a grave disservice to the competition. Few people of the artistic level that the IVCI seeks to have on our jury are available for three weeks, on six months notice."

"Lastly, why should a violinist have to sacrifice his or her career by not being able to enter one of the most important competitions in the world (I am not speaking about Indianapolis only, but all the most important competitions) since they do not occur every year?" Kwok said. "Timing is everything, and in the case of 'The Indianapolis,' which is only once every four years, it can make a huge difference. With strict safeguards in place, there is no reason why a student of a jury member cannot enter and win fairly. If people think rationally, they must realize that when there are nine jury members and one person recuses himself or herself, the violinist must win the votes of the other eight in order to win."

What happens now? Norman Lebrecht, for his part, came up with a quota plan to "rectify" the situation of all these Korean women having too much success. From his blog, he proposes:

"1 No judge shall have taught any student within the past two years.
2 Contestants must disclose all past teacher relationships.
3 Contestants must disclose any previous contact with any of the judges.
4 No more than four students shall be admitted of the same nationality.
5 No more than 60 percent of contestants shall be of the same sex.
6 A judge who recognises a contestant from a previous competition must withdraw from the round."

It's not a system that would work in the United States, and here's why: The United States Supreme Court has rejected strict racial quotas since its Regents of the University of California v. Bakke decision in 1978. The Court has accepted the consideration of race in decision making to favor "underrepresented minority groups" (Grutter v. Bollinger, 2008), but it consistently has rejected straight-up quotas, such as in Ricci v. DeStefano (2009), when it declared that a city fire department did not open itself to "disparate-impact liability" when it promoted white and Hispanic firefighters who outscored Black applicants on a management promotion test. The Court most recently affirmed its "strict scrutiny" standard toward quotas last year in Fisher v. University of Texas, where it declared that any consideration of race must be "narrowly tailored."

Lebrecht's proposal is not narrowly tailored to bring underrepresented minority groups into the world of elite violin competition. It is aimed at *denying* previously underrepresented groups (women, Asians) the representation that they enjoyed in this one competition.

This is not a situation such as the Sphinx Competition, which is limited to contestants of color, and was born of a mission to help underrepresented groups. Once you open a competition to all, under U.S. law, you can't impose strict racial quotas on the outcome. Given abundant Supreme Court precedent, any competition in the United States that adopted Lebrecht's "standards" should expect to be sued, and to lose that suit, at potentially grave financial cost to the competition.

In conclusion: The fact that six finalists were women is not a scandal. The fact that five were of Korean descent is also not a scandal. The IVCI created an elaborate system for scoring that allowed jury members to serve even if their past or present students were in the competition. The fact that the IVCI's system could not accommodate the situation of one juror having so many successful students exposed a weakness that they would do well to address before the next competition.

I understand that some will still argue that having a juror that has some relationship to a contestant is a problem, even if that juror does not vote on the contestant. But do we want to have juries with no active teachers? If we do have active teachers, do we then want to disqualify all their students from entering a given competition? A system that bars all past or present students of jurors would open a whole separate line of problematic ethics, as would one that dismisses jurors whose students successfully enter. It's not a simple problem, and this is why the attempts to solve it have not been simple, either. But in the case of the IVCI, I believe that those attempts have been made in good faith.

* * *

Tuesday on, a young reader posted a blog in which she reported that this year's IVCI first-place laureate, Jinjoo Cho, had expressed a desire to share the 1683 "ex-Gingold" Strad she's been given to play for the next four years with the other laureates. It would seem that our younger generation is not only profoundly talented, but generous and community-minded as well. I think Josef Gingold would have heartily approved.

Photo by Denis Kelly

Posted on September 24, 2014 at 10:05 AM
Great analysis of the system.

All this furore because of one disgruntled teacher who thinks his student should win all competitions. In comparison with Formula 1 racing, even if you have highly dominant car, you are not able to win all the Grand Prix throughout the year.

Instead of suggesting quota people should rather look what the Koreans are doing that they are so good. If they have so many high-level students there must be very high number of intermediate and extremely high number of basic level students. Is it connected with the school system, or do they have a newly born Shinichi Suzuki :-) influencing the basis of the pyramid?

Posted on September 24, 2014 at 1:29 PM
Thank you for this fine assessment.

Having served on the juries of international violin competitions, I know of all of the measures that are put in place to prevent cheating. I have several humorous and revealing anecdotes from behind the scenes I could share that would support this statement.

None of this seems to matter to people who are conspiracy theorists. I once had a conversation with someone who had forgotten that I had been a member of the jury at a particular competition. This person told me: "Oh, I was there. It was so obvious to everybody in the audience that so-and-so should have been the winner and that there was an organized effort by the jury early on to eliminate her." I protested that that simply was not true (and it WASN'T!), the person said: "Oh YES, it is true. It was SO obvious! There can be no denying it." I then reminded the person that I had been on that jury, was involved in every aspect of the decision, and that I neither witnessed nor took part in any such conspiracy to skew the results. The response? Continued argument that it was "undeniable".

I think this distasteful matter over the Indianapolis outcome should be put to rest sooner than later. Jin Joo is a wonderful violinist and person. Her efforts should be rewarded, and her future left untainted by false controversy.

Bravo to the Jury of the Indianapolis Competition!

From John A
Posted on September 24, 2014 at 1:50 PM
About the only thing they could do within legal limits is to make scores public right away as somebody suggested in an earlier blog, much like a sporting competition and the likes. Otherwise, nothing will sate the appetite of disgruntled teachers and violinists. Even then, there will still be those who will make the claims Rosand made about Waarts that he was more deserving than this or that violinist.

And I said it earlier, the main thing I find a bit awkward is when a judge has 3, 4 even 5 students competing vs. students with no teachers on the jury. You begin to get into shady territory (from an outside perspective) when a competitor only has to worry about 8 out of 9 scores vs. a competitor whom needs to worry about all 9 judges. The logic can go both ways in it could help or hinder one or the other.

I really loved the performances of the Finalists, even if my girl did not win. Though one Mozart performance made me raise a brow at what just happened to said performer and the orchestra. =P

Posted on September 24, 2014 at 2:37 PM
Thank you for a sensible review. However, I disagree with the assertion that since two hours worth of music preparation was expected of the contestants, a few bobbles here and there do not matter all that much.

The problem with this and every competition or audition where there are numerous contestants: each contestant is only allowed minutes, not hours, to show his/her worth, and will advance or be eliminated. Bobbles here and there in the preliminary rounds WILL matter and likely knock a contestant out, even if his/her musicality is worthy of final round. These bobbles are simply the lowest-hanging fruit that the judges latch on to and use as a quick and easy way to weed through the large preliminary field and eliminate contestants in order to move onto the next round.

This is the inherent logistical limitation to any competition or audition that unfortunately reduces judging of artists to "no bobbles = good musician."

From Tim Gregg
Posted on September 24, 2014 at 5:18 PM
An excellent and cogent analysis, Laurie. Thank you.
From Michael Baumgardner
Posted on September 24, 2014 at 5:58 PM
An excellent defense of a system that is, quite frankly, not defensible. Not that they haven't tried, but the process is contaminated and there probably really isn't a solution. But when top virtuosos suggest that "if your teacher isn't a judge, you shouldn't bother to enter" and others say the system is rigged then yes, there is somewhat of a "scandal". Refusing to acknowledge that not having teachers score their pupils makes everything ok is quite naive in my opinion. In the end, it doesn't much matter. As you suggest, they are generally all wonderful performers and subjective judging will never satisfy everyone. It's the nature of the process - but to not have teachers with pupils be judges would go a long way toward eliminating a real sour point in the competitions.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 24, 2014 at 6:16 PM
It looks like Norman is trying to change the subject away from all those tiresome details that I've provided in the above blog. (If you want some laughs, read the comments from the anonymous misogynists):

"I don’t see that she impugns my integrity, but her post is so tedious I may have nodded off before that bit. It does appear, however, that Laurie has been sponsored by a discredited tournament and reflects its tenuous grasp on reality. In the cause of her own integrity, she should have declared an interest."

To fully disclose, I was one of several credentialed media that the IVCI hosted at the event. The other out-of-town media included The Violin Channel, a reporter from American Record Guide, Strad Magazine, and Strings Magazine. I can't speak to the specific arrangements by the other media outlets, but the IVCI is a sponsor of, running ads to attract applicants and viewers to the event. As part of the competition's payment to for its ad campaign, it covered my transportation and hotel accommodations to the event. That arrangement was negotiated by Robert, who handles all of advertisement. We have sponsorship arrangements with Juilliard and other institutions with events that I cover; Robert handles the sponsorship so I can write with editorial freedom. The IVCI had no editorial control over anything I wrote, nor did they request any, nor would we accept any kind of deal in which they had. This allowed me to be there and report on everything first-hand, as opposed to not being there and having no first-hand knowledge to share.

From Karen Rile
Posted on September 24, 2014 at 6:56 PM
Points 4 and 5 of LeBrecht's quota plan are racist and misogynistic, and discredit his first two points, which otherwise make some sense.

His point #6 is ludicrously impractical. But that doesn't matter because any reasonable person would have stopped reading after points 4 and 5.

Transparency is always best. Good that Laurie disclosed her not-scandalous arrangement with IVCI. Faculty-student relationships should always be transparent as well. It's sad that these brilliant young players, who did nothing to create this situation, are being forced to endure this muckraking.

From Kathryn Miller
Posted on September 24, 2014 at 8:49 PM
Laurie: First of all, I find it interesting that you feel justified in saying that the finalist decisions were correct given that you were not in the preliminary or semi-final rounds. Secondly, I agree with your analysis that the scoring system is as fair as can be and innately problematic, but put aside all the math, and think about it. The competition is telling us that all the best violinists are all women, and Korean. Is this really realistic? It is undoubtably true that there are more Korean, Chinese, and Japanese violinists, probably due to the difference in culture, but 70% seems a bit much. In an ideal world, jurors would have the integrity to give all contestants fair scores regardless of any personal connections, but no human being is truly able to do that. It seems to me, that music should not be judged by 9 professional's personal technical preferences, but rather by the community as a whole. Music is not meant to be scrutinized at every note, it is meant to bring joy, to relate to people. In this way, it seems the only reasonable prize, would be the audience prize. Even that could be largely debated as unfair, but it is an unfair world, and there is no changing that. Really, this whole need to find the "best" violinist is ridiculous. Every single contestant who applied even if they were not accepted clearly put an insane amount of time and energy towards their playing. Every one of them plays beautifully. And every one of them has a slightly different style. How can anyone say one is better than the other? All this internet debate proves that people can have extremely different tastes in music, and judging such a thing is entirely subjective.
From Emily Hogstad
Posted on September 24, 2014 at 9:09 PM
I'd like to point out that Augustin Hadelich's teacher Joel Smirnoff was on the jury when Augustin won gold in Indy. And yet...I don't recall a hubbub over Augustin's coronation back in 2006 (point me to blog entries if there was). So, um, what exactly changed here? Is the increase in tsk-tsking *solely* because Jaime Laredo is president of the jury? Or is some of the animus potentially because so many non-American women ended up in the finals this year, and certain genders and nationalities feel threatened by that?

If people are going to shame Jinjoo Cho, I sure hope those same people shamed Augustin Hadelich back in the day, too. I disagree with the shaming (if anyone should be shamed here, shouldn't it be the supposedly unscrupulous jury scratching each other's backs???), but at least it would be a consistent reaction.

And personally, I knew Jinjoo and Tessa Lark would take the top two slots, just like how I knew the general order of who the winners would be last time I watched in 2010 (check my 2010 blogs if ye doubt the claim). I wonder if I bribed myself. Yikes.

Posted on September 24, 2014 at 9:41 PM
Your excellent article brought to mind a conversation I had about ten years ago with a pro timpani player in a major orchestra. We were talking about the hiring in orchestras, and he made the comment that you had to be a (his words, not mine!) "hot Asian chick" in order to get work in the violin section nowadays.

What bothers me about that is not that the Asian community is producing female players of a high enough caliber to effectively wipe the floor with the rest of us, it's the Barbi (and Ken) doll-ization of soloists these days. I've noticed that especially with the women, they all look like working fashion models.

In my opinion, back in the bad old, sexist days, you could be a man or a woman and have a body and face made for radio. It was just about the playing, although I remember much being made of Eugene Fodor's studliness. I guess it helped with the fast passages.

Now, I'm living in dread of the moment when the men take their cue from the "Barihunks" phenomena, and start buffing up and stripping down to play the Brahms. Yikes!

From Lydia Leong
Posted on September 24, 2014 at 10:39 PM
Have you seen the composition of a US youth symphony's violin section in recent years? What percentage of it is Asian (either pure-Asian or mixed-Asian) and female? (As far as I can tell, my own teacher's private studio is mostly Asian or mixed-Asian girls.)

It cannot be entirely surprising that given that classical music, and specifically, playing the violin, is still held in high regard by Asian communities, whether inside the US or elsewhere in the world, that a substantial percentage of the top musicians are now Asian. If the top of the funnel starts with a disproportionately huge number of Asian girls, the bottom of the funnel has a significant likelihood of having a high percentage of Asian women.

Posted on September 25, 2014 at 12:48 AM
In reply to I have been a jurist for a few competitions in my life, and regularly judge auditions for seating and admissions. "Bobbles" simply never enter into my thinking unless they are obvious symptoms of ill-preparedness or inadequate technique. If a person is musically gifted and technically adept, a memory slip is of no concern and will not distract me from a well-turned phrase or an elegant delivery. (I can't speak to other's criteria and I have never ((nor will ever)) judge at this level.) I can cite an instance where we favored one player who had a fairly serious memory slip, and who had to go back to the double bar and start over again, over a robotic automaton precisely because his playing was supremely lovely. The automaton's mother probably disagreed with us, but the panel was in 100% agreement. There was not even a question from any of us that we were judging properly and fairly. Not everyone is looking for a live re-enactment of a dubbed and edited recording.
Posted on September 25, 2014 at 1:53 AM
Brava, Laurie, for this calm, thorough discussion.

Posted on September 25, 2014 at 2:37 AM
I think that because the Koreans have a good training systems to turn out great musician, now the young Korean musicians are winning more and more classical music competitions. Last time Clara Jumi Kang and Soyoung Yoon won convicingly the IVCI, and Soyoung Yoon went on to win convicingly in the Wieniawski violin competition. The 5 Korean finalists of this IVCI deserve their accolades. Actually I think Yeol eum Son (the van cliburn silver medalist ) should have won the gold in last Tchaikovsky competition piano section. Actually I wish i could have more CDs that performed by the Korean violinists like Clara Jumi Kang, Soyoung Yoon, Yura Lee, and Suyeon Kim. I really don't care what races or nationalities the musicians have as long as they produce wonderful music.
From steven mcmillan
Posted on September 25, 2014 at 4:14 PM
Making "Artistry" a competitive event is (and has been for centuries now) fraught with ethical, moral, and practical pitfalls. Just sayin'..............

Posted on September 25, 2014 at 6:42 PM
As Steven mentioned, artistry became a highly competitive event like sports and IVCI scoring system tried too much to be “objective” and “fair”. As we all know, if any competition is dominated by specific country, religious or ethnic group, the end result may not be good especially in America. The spelling bee, one of true American tradition, became playground for Indian kids. Many Americans show less interest and some even say spelling be is simply “rote memory” contest. LPGA (Women’s golf) are dominated by Korean ladies and Americans watch less and the Association lost many sponsors. They had to reduce the number of tournament and now even the Major competition is only broadcasted by Golf Channel. There are lots of examples. I don't agree with Norman Lebrecht about “Scandal” but, there should be some change to promote the diversity. I believe many of us are very sad to hear such complain from Mr. Rosand, our highly respected legendary violinist.
Posted on September 26, 2014 at 5:14 PM
I find it somewhat humorous that I, a known piano expert, am commenting on this situation, which is beginning to get tiresome. I personally know 2 of the finalists (they both have performed with my tenant, who is a world class pianist). They are fabulous players, and to in any way besmirch their presence in the finals is a rabidly unfair assessment of them. Their ethnicity is utterly irrelevant, and furthermore, it is absurd at this point to denigrate Asian musicians solely or partially because of their ethnicity. Why not denigrate Icelandic musicians, or Mexican musicians or whoever? It is ridiculous and racist. I have worked with literally thousands of musicians in my 26 years as a recording producer, and ethnicity is never an indicator of anything.

I want to compliment Laurie for her legal analysis of the Supreme Courts rulings on affirmative action and attempts at fairness in these matters; and to the Indianapolis Violin Competition for a process that, to this reader, virtually insures fairness.

Joe Patrych

Posted on September 26, 2014 at 6:53 PM
To Frieda: Just wanted to thank reading my post and correctly pointing out the concerns. I’m Korean with two girls playing violin. Yes, they are American. My 2nd one loves Spelling Bee and did very good last year. I love music and also golf. Please take my post as very personal complaint which was written very carelessly. Below are some clarification on my previous comments.
1. I was simply not happy with Norman Lebrecht questioning fairness of judging in this highly respected “artistry” competition. And as you and Lydia indicated, because of large pool of Asian or Asian heritage American, we will see more of them in these kinds of competitions. As the trend continues, I expect there will be more Norman in the future who will question the fairness of the competition – that’s what I meant bad.
2. Regarding Mr. Rosand, I was just sad to see him questioning about conflict of interest in Judging "publicly". He has a right to express his opinion especially now as a teacher, but maybe I wanted to cherish him as one of great violinist and only his great playing.
3. Regarding spelling bee, last year when my kid was competing in regional spelling bee, after few rounds, only Asian heritage kids were left. As kids fell out from each rounds, the kids and their parents left the seat and within an hour, mostly Asian parents (many of them are not American or not yet) remained in the audience. The atmosphere became very awkward. Not necessarily bad but didn't feel great.
4. Now I cannot watch ladies’ golf on Main Channels and we don’t (can’t afford) subscribe golf channel. That’s bad.
5. I absolutely agree with you that to promote diversity, it should start earlier with children of different backgrounds. I just don’t see that happening at least with classical music.

Posted on September 26, 2014 at 9:30 PM
Classical music is NOT as popular in US as in some of the East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, even mainland China. Which is sad and we should try to avert the trend. As for the lady golf moved out of the major channels, it could be a business decision rather than the competition itself lost popular appeals. For instance, I missed the tennis grand slam Wimbeldon and French open from the major channels and they are moved to ESPN. How many American composers' works were performed at the IVCI. Only the commissioned work was composed by native US composer. Most works were composed by European composers. What I am trying to say is that more prizes in IVCI or Van Cliburn go to East Asian musicians won't decrease the prestige and importance of the US classical music competitions.
Posted on September 27, 2014 at 7:25 PM
I have never agreed with any competition result. It does not bother me . I still enjoy the music.My only impression of Korea comes from a few satellite channels and I admire the amazing positive ,optimistic energetic attitudes to life.
I just wanted to add that Miriam Fried ,to me ,is Violin Royalty and nothing can move me from that .I hope she reads this .
From Sarah Skreko
Posted on September 29, 2014 at 3:11 PM
I think it's unfortunate that "concerns" about the nationality and gender of the participants, which are not valid, are conflated with concerns about the equity of teachers judging students, which I believe are valid.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 29, 2014 at 7:39 PM
I received this response this morning from Aaron Rosand:

"Your comprehensive article in defense of the Indianapolis Competition’s point system, misrepresents the reason for my disagreement regarding the voting procedure. First, I must tell you I was a juror in the IVCI in 1990. I am thoroughly familiar with the voting process and do not believe it has changed. I sat with Joseph Gingold at the time, and all jurors adhered to the role of not making comments concerning candidates or displaying any signs of approval or disapproval. This was not the case at the 2014 event. An observer saw and overheard the remarks of a juror brazenly criticizing the contestants in the early rounds.

“Jury members grade each violinist after each performance using individualized scorecards, Kwok said. On the card is a place for the ‘Overall Performance Score’ followed by scores for special prizes such as ‘Best Bach, Best Mozart, Best Beethoven, etc.’ Jury members may keep all the scorecards until the end of each round so that they can recalibrate scores as they go along as they feel is appropriate. At the end of a round, jury members sit collectively in the jury room to finish and/or finalized their scores before submitting them to Kwok.” In 1990, at the conclusion of each round the score cards were gathered and removed for the computer. There was no “recalibrating scores” in a jury room where a lot can happen to effect the outcome. The initial impression without discussion was not preserved at this event. It was always amusing on the next day to have your score cards returned with marks changed if they were too high or too low. This evening out process made the final decisions ridiculously close and resulted in confusion to pick a winner. I remembered the heated discussion that took place, when the suggestion was made for the sharing of the First Prize. Joseph Gingold persisted that we must have one First Prize winner to sustain interest and financial support for future competitions. And so it was, a very narrow margin of victory based on just a few aggregated points complied by the computer. In short, the computer is not the satisfactory judge for artistry.

You are implying that I am simply objecting because my students did not advance. Please know that I am launching this crusade to insure complete fairness in future international competitions. You mentioned the subject of my student Stephen Waarts, who was the winner of top prizes in the Menuhin Competition, the Montreal Competition, and the Young Concert Artists Competition in NYC during the 2013-2014 season. His semi final round in the IVCI was highlighted by an impeccable performance of the extremely difficult Bartok Solo Sonata. He was the only contestant to play the entire round without a score; this included the commissioned work by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Was this completely overlooked by the panel? YES!! Because it wasn’t good enough to make the finals. There were most distinguished judges in all of the other events and it does not speak well for the peculiarities that were exhibited in this one. Most of the contestants played almost the entire round with a music stand and turning pages. In my humble opinion, this is unprofessional. This is a violin competition and not one for the piano. I am fully aware of the current trend of using music for sonatas, but in my opinion it simply means that you do not know the score. I have attended recitals by the greatest artists of the last century dating back to Bronislaw Hubermann, Fritz Kriesler, Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin, Mischa Elman, Efrem Zimbalist, David Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan, etc. They all included sonatas in their programs but I never saw a music stand on stage.

Once and for all, it must be mandated that jurors cannot have their students participate to insure fairness for all. This practice must be discontinued in international competitions because it is a farce to believe that teachers will not protect one of their own by giving lower grades to candidates who conceivably are superior. It is ridiculous to think that because they cannot vote for their own students that harm cannot be done to other candidates. It would be very interesting to expose the scores of jurors who had students in the competition. Conceivably it would be good idea if jurors openly gave their scores for each round rather than submitting a silent score that was altered in the jury room or by the computer.

This rule must be established to insure that injustices will not happen in the future!"

Posted on September 29, 2014 at 9:54 PM
I think it's good for all of us to reflect on what we say, and to let music speak for itself. There will always be disagreements with the results of competitions, competitors and their teachers know this when they enter. The real question to get honest with yourself about is, "Why do you play music?"

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