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IVCI Jury Member Miriam Fried Asked Not to Vote in Finals

Laurie Niles

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Published: September 20, 2014 at 11:36 AM [UTC]

Jury member Miriam Fried has been asked not vote in the finals of the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis because of the six finalists, three of them are current or former students of hers, the IVCI announced Friday night.

Other members of this year's IVCI jury are Jaime Laredo (Jury President), Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Dong-Suk Kang, Boris Kuschnir, Cho-Liang Lin, Philip Setzer, Dmitry Sitkovetsky and Kyoko Takezawa

FriedIVCI Executive Director Glen Kwok issued this statement Friday night:

"One of the hallmarks of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis (IVCI) has always been the integrity of its judging process. From a strict no discussion policy amongst the jury members, to abstentions by any jury member who has a student in the competition, to a sophisticated computerized scoring system which eliminates any possibility of score manipulation, multiple safeguards have been implemented to ensure a fair, honest and transparent process. For the first time in IVCI history, three of the six Finalists are students of a single jury member. Given this unprecedented scenario, the IVCI has decided to take the extraordinary additional measure of requesting that Miriam Fried recuse herself entirely from voting during the Classical Finals and Finals in order to avoid any possibility of jury partiality."

The situation was causing controversy, especially on social media. Curtis Institute teacher and Aaron Rosand, who has several current and former students in the IVCI, sent me this statement last night, before the announcement:

"Although the teachers cannot vote for their pupils, they can simply give lower grades for other worthy candidates. This tactic I have witnessed too many times when sitting on international competition juries. On several occasions, I have even seen teachers coaching their pupils between rounds. This nonsense must be discontinued if we are to have fair and unbiased judgement. A rule should be established barring jurors from having their students participating in a competition. The Indianapolis competition has shown how lopsided results can be when five of six finalist are students of the teachers on the jury. Remembering my experience in 1990 when I was a juror for this competition, I wonder how my dear old friend Joseph Gingold would react to this turn of events."

The program for the IVCI lists all major teachers, current and past, with whom each contestant has trained. For this year's finalists:

Tessa Lark, 25: Miriam Fried, Lucy Chapman and Kurt Sassmannshaus
Jinjoo Cho, 26: Jaime Laredo (present), Paul Kantor, Joseph Silverstein and Pamela Frank
Ji Yoon Lee, 22: Kolja Blacher (present)
Ji Young Lim, 19: Nam Yun Kim
Yoo Jin Jang, 23: Miriam Fried (present), Nam Yun Kim
Dami Kim, 25, Mihaela Martin (present), Miriam Fried, Aaron Rosand

Posted on September 20, 2014 at 11:55 AM
In the Polish Wieniawski competition (every 5 years) the tv coverage has long discussions about each player`s performances. That would be an interesting addition for any violin competition. Sadly the program was all in Polish so I didn`t have a clue what they said .
Indianapolis is left with the only "acceptable comments"eg "Well done the finalists. Better luck next time for the rest ."
From Michael Baumgardner
Posted on September 20, 2014 at 1:10 PM
Too little too late. The only real solution is no judges who have students in the competition.
Posted on September 20, 2014 at 1:53 PM
What Michael said. The solution, which could have and should have need addressed prior to the competition, somewhat bizarrely doesn't address the Laredo conflict, and in any case, is too late. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth (can't imagine how the competitors feel), especially given the belated declarations of fairness and integrity.
Posted on September 20, 2014 at 1:59 PM
I agree with Michael, a little too little, a little too late. The competition has been tarnished by this event, like it or not.

It's important to point out, Fried did have colleagues that were complicit in all of this, and allowed for this to go on during the earlier rounds; they are still on the jury (including a person heading the jury who has a student that totally botched the Mozart 5th).

Just out of curiosity, if someone could clarify, was it Ms. Fried who specifically recused her own self from the jury voluntarily? Was she ordered to do so by competition administrators after they read online postings or was it a mutual decision for both parties?

Thank you for the coverage!

From Sarah Skreko
Posted on September 20, 2014 at 4:05 PM
I live in Indianapolis, and I'm disappointed at this turn of events. It's cooled my jets for attending the finals this evening, although I likely still will. This issue should have been addressed long before today, and it's difficult not to question the results up to this point.
Posted on September 20, 2014 at 5:38 PM
And yes, I'm also curious as to why Fried was asked to step down, but Laredo was not.
From Tim Gregg
Posted on September 20, 2014 at 6:29 PM
Jay Harvey's observation this morning " is doubtful that the criteria for choosing winners in this or any other competition will be universally applauded" is quite apt. Having heard every live performance in the 2014 IVCI thus far I find it amusing that no one has come forward with any specific musical reasons that Miriam Fried's past and present students should NOT be in the finals. All performances are archived and there for the listening. Tessa Lark and Yoo Jin Jang were quite clearly the top players in the preliminaries and the semi finals. There were ten others in the semis who could have legitimately been finalists. Another student of Ms. Fried played brilliantly in the first round but not so well in the next and she did not move on. Instead of spewing unfounded accusation and speculation, Mr. Rosand and others would better serve the violin community by offering specific musical examples from the performances of Ms. Fried's students which in their opinion should have prevented those players from moving forward in the competition.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 20, 2014 at 6:44 PM
The statement above said she was asked to step down, but I think it's important to note that this was not because of any wrongdoing on her part. My understanding is that jury members were assured from the beginning that it was okay to be part of the jury, even if they had students entering the competition, because the IVCI's system already allowed for them to recuse themselves from voting on their own students. In other words, her students did very well, without her ever voting for them.

Unfortunately, if you have the highest level teachers on any jury, there is a strong possibility that their students will also be at a high level and will excel in the competition.

The IVCI certainly has not hidden any of this information from everyone; all competitors are listed with their teachers names, past and present, and also, every round is broadcast over the Internet for the entire world to hear, watch, argue about, etc. I haven't seen a lot of argument that these picks were way out of line, based on the quality of the performances. But when so many of your students are in the finals, people start looking at that instead of at the performances themselves.

I'm not saying it isn't a problem, but it would seem the only complete solution would be for the jury to have no teachers who have the possibility of having a winning student in the competition. I'm not sure that this would be the best solution, because these high level teachers are not only extremely knowledgeable, but they can also advise students afterwards in a way that a non-teacher would not be able to. But it's worth a thorough debate.

From Sarah Skreko
Posted on September 20, 2014 at 8:58 PM
I can't speak for anyone else, but I certainly didn't mean to imply that Ms. Fried did anything wrong. I don't believe that at all. Nor do I think there was any kind of conspiracy or malicious intent, and I actually don't think Mr. Rosand was implying that either. I have nothing but respect for the work of Ms. Fried and Mr. Laredo. I also don't think that the finalists are undeserving. But I believe that for any teacher to judge a competition in which his students are participating is a conflict of interest. Even at the level of state solo and ensemble competitions for school children, private teachers are asked not to judge their own students and are expected to leave the panel if their students do arrive. It's not a matter of the merit of the students; it's for the propriety of the competition.
From Sarah Skreko
Posted on September 20, 2014 at 9:00 PM
By "question the results," I didn't mean to accuse anyone of rigging the game. I simply meant that I don't think it's possible for a teacher to be impartial about her own students. I know I certainly could not be. Even if they can't vote for their own students, they obviously still influence the outcome of the competition, and the conflict of interest is problematic.
Posted on September 21, 2014 at 3:37 AM
How is it 5 out of 6? Who is the 5th one?
From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 21, 2014 at 5:01 AM
Aaron Rosand would need to qualify that; it may simply be incorrect. From the information I have, it's four; three students who iist Miriam Fried and one who lists Jaime Laredo as a former or current teacher.

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