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Is it fair, if your teacher is on the jury? An explanation of procedures in the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis

Laurie Niles

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Published: September 17, 2014 at 4:10 PM [UTC]

A number of finalists in the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis have connections to jury members, as current or former students. Is this appropriate? Some have been questioning that matter.

I'm not going to take sides, but I'd like to explain the IVCI process, as I understand it.

Here are the rules, with regard to jury members and their own students (the rules are stated in the program, which you can read online at this link. The "scoring procedure" is outlined on page 37, and here is what it says with regard to this matter:

"In order to further reduce partiality, jurors are recused from voting for participants with whom they have had any past relationship as a primary teacher. By processing the scores to the same statistical distribution, players who are students of jurors will not be affected by their abstention."

In other words: Judges with students in the competition are not permitted to vote on their own students; scores for those students are based only on the scores from the other jury members. (This can actually work against those students, and some would argue that in the past, it has.) The finalists advanced based on a combined score: 70 percent of their semi-final scores plus 30 percent of their scores in the preliminaries.

The program also lists the teachers, past and present, for all the students. Here is that list for the finalists. (Current IVCI jury members are marked with an asterisk):

Tessa Lark, 25, United States
Miriam Fried*
Lucy Chapman
Kurt Sassmannshaus

Jinjoo Cho, 26, South Korea
Jaime Laredo (present)*
Paul Kantor
Joseph Silverstein + Pamela Frank

Ji Yoon Lee, 22, South Korea
Kolja Blacher (present)

Ji Young Lim, 19, South Korea
Nam Yun Kim

Yoo Jin Jang, 23, South Korea
Miriam Fried (present)*
Nam Yun Kim

Dami Kim, South Korea
Mihaela Martin (present)
Miriam Fried*
Aaron Rosand

The members of the jury include: Jaime Laredo (Jury President), Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Miriam Fried, Dong-Suk Kang, Boris Kuschnir, Cho-Liang Lin, Philip Setzer, Dmitry Sitkovetsky and Kyoko Takezawa. Many of these jurists are indeed some of the most prestigious violin teachers in the world, and their students win other competitions.

Jaime Laredo Ellen-Taaffe-Zwilich Miriam-Fried
Dong-Suk-Kang Boris-Kuschnir Cho-Liang-Lin
Philip-Setzer Dmitry-Sitkovetsky Kyoko-Takezawaz

I hope this information helps. If you are wondering if the outcome of the competition is legitimate, I recommend that instead of looking at who is studying with whom, or worse, the racial profiles of the contestants, the best way to determine the level of everyone's playing, and to judge whether the outcome is fair, is to listen and watch these excellent young violinists play. Their performances can be found here:

Archived performances (ones that have already occurred)

Live-streaming (if you'd like to catch the performances tonight, and the rest of the week)

From John A
Posted on September 17, 2014 at 4:55 PM
The only things that's awkward is exactly what you mentioned:
"In other words: Judges with students in the competition are not permitted to vote on their own students; scores for those students are based only on the scores from the other jury members. (This can actually work against those students, and some would argue that in the past, it has.)"

I've been trying to figure out the logics but it can go both ways. Student A has a teacher on the jury, now only 8 judges will vote. Student B has no teacher on jury, therefore gets all votes. You can say Student B has a disadvantage due to the cumulative average being brought down by the 9th judge, whereas Student A only has to worry about the 8 judges. But can also go the other way, in that A's average is higher than B's, whom needs higher individual averages due to have a zero from the missing judge. Lolol. Can go around in so many circles just trying to decipher what happened and how!

That aside, the ones who did advance were very deserving, even if there were a couple in there that were questionable vs. the others eliminated. I got two correct, three if counting the one that I knew would probably advance even if not a fan of her. =P

Posted on September 17, 2014 at 5:16 PM
Even though they say a judge who is the teacher of a contestant can't vote for his/her student, the judge/teacher can still vote against threats to the chosen talent that the jury wants to push in the final round. What they typically do is weed out the strong contestants who are threats in earlier rounds, to prevent their favored candidates from looking bad against them in the final rounds.

This particular competition is the most blatant example of politics I have seen recently. To have 3-4 of your own students (when you are judging) in a final round at the same time is not a coincidence.

Posted on September 17, 2014 at 5:46 PM
Watched all semi final rounds live. Feel some of the finalists are not stronger than some players who did not make final. For example, I think Ayana Tsuji, Christine Lim, Kristi GJezi, they had amazing performance in the semi final. Jinjoo cho, dami Kim were fabulous!

Posted on September 17, 2014 at 6:34 PM
Competitions are stupid, anyway. What really counts is playing music for an audience, and getting recording contracts. That's the real competition.

These "competitions" are really merely a filter system for later success. Except that because they are so contrived, they become a problem, much like "teaching to the test."

Being a good musician is so much more than winning a competition.

Posted on September 17, 2014 at 11:24 PM
Is the swaying around and extra movement given marks? There`s not much chance of stopping them and seeing as it`s so prominent in a visual art such as violin playing I think we can expect that to happen .
From Anne Horvath
Posted on September 18, 2014 at 3:52 PM
Other types of subjective competitions (skating, gymnastics, etc.) have judges' scores posted immediately and publicly. Why not this sort of competition?
From John Cadd
Posted on September 19, 2014 at 8:36 AM
I was waiting to see if the body movements in the finalist stages with an orchestra might be brought in line like bow arm movements . No chance . All kinds of disconnected swaying around were the fashion . That`s the current fashion. What you see is what you get. Varied colourful dresses in the orchestra, instead of black , drew one comment. Why have one rule for bow arms and another for bodies ?
From Michael Baumgardner
Posted on September 19, 2014 at 2:25 PM
Honestly, you are being very diplomatic. There have been enough articles published by high level string players that it is pretty clear that these competitions are very suspect to say the least. Certainly, it is a subjective process at this level, so there will be disagreement, but if you don't have a teacher or connection on the panel it may be a waste to enter many of these competitions. The teachers are just as vested in the student winning as the student is. They can't vote for their student, but they can knock off good competition.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 20, 2014 at 8:13 PM
About body movements, particularly in the Mozart round, keep in mind that there was no conductor for those performances. The soloists needed to move a little more in order to keep the ensemble together and convey their tempi.

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