The gender balance is tipped heavily toward females among violinists selected to participate in the 2016 Menuhin Competition, set to take place April 7 through 17 at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Of the 44 competitors selected to participate, 36 are girls -- that is, 82 percent -- and eight are boys, the competition announced last week. (See the full list here.) The competition reported last fall that 66 percent of the 307 applicants for 2016 were female. The competition has two divisions, Seniors (ages 16-21) and Juniors (under 16). The imbalance is most extreme in Senior Division, where only one young man was selected to participate among 22 competitors. In the Junior Division, seven boys and 15 girls were chosen to compete. Participants are invited to stay in London with host families for the duration of the competition.
The imbalance raises some questions: Are music programs around the world doing a better job of training female violinists than male? Or did the Menuhin Competition simply fail to attract the high-level male violinists this time? The last Menuhin Competition was held in Austin, Texas in 2014. In that competition, eight of the prizewinners were boys, and two were girls.
The 2016 competitors represent 17 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Russia, Sweden, Bulgaria, Poland, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Denmark, Singapore, Turkey, Taiwan, China, Austria, Canada and France. There are nine competitors from the U.S., including Olivia Chen, 13; Elli Choi, 14; Marley Erickson, 12; Yesong Sophie Lee, 12; Kevin Miura, 13; Takumi Taguchi, 14; Qing Yu Chen, 15; Ariel Horowitz, 19; and Kelly Talim, 20. The youngest competitor is Samuel Tan, 10, of Singapore. There are also three British competitors this year to represent the host country: Louisa Staples, 15; Juliette Roos, 20; and Mathilde Milwidsky, 21.
Jury members for the 2016 competition are Pamela Frank (chair), Joji Hattori, Ray Chen, Martin Engstroem, Ning Feng, Don-Suk Kang, Tasmin Little, Julia Fischer and Jeremy Menuhin.
The Menuhin Competition was founded in 1983 by the violinist and humanitarian, Yehudi Menuhin.
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It seems to me in general (judging from the numbers in my sons' orchestra) that there are more girls playing violin than boys. My son has been the only boy in his section on more than one occasion.
Demographic imbalance is something that is best studied using larger samples, over longer time intervals, and at all levels from beginning Suzuki class to the ranks of the LA Phil.
As for the "marketing" question I think we have to remember that many of these contestants are young teenagers. They have teachers and parents who should be shouldering (sorry!) much of the responsibility for these "marketing" choices. And remember these kids have role models too. What are they wearing? It's hard to fault an ambitious young teenager for wanting to believe that his or her name and picture might one day appear on an album cover, and therefore wanting to look like the violinists they've seen pictured on covers only seems natural.
I think the large number of South Korean violinists of high quality* shows how seriously violin is taken there.
Again though, an imbalance - across many competitions - between the high number of female competitors and the much smaller number of males.
This is a reflection perhaps of the now significantly higher number of female applicants to, and graduates from, UK, Australian and other universities.
I think it's only a bad trend if it gets too uneven ... but feel free to disagree.
* In Passing, I preferred Bomsori Kim playing Waxman's Carmen fantasy to Heifitz' performance - making allowances for YouTube, but I felt he played too fast. Ms Kim was more musical.
Well this stinks. Is the violin going the way of the flute? Where no self-respecting male would go near one?
Or has it always been this way?
I rather think that at least in my 50 years, it has always been so. I think back to my junior high orchestra in the 70s. I can even remember some names. There were only a few of us males. There were many more girls. Then I went on to major in English Literature. Many more girls than boys there, too (hey it is a trend but then I went into a technical field....).
Hey, if you like being with girls and not just in the bedroom, you've got a great thing going if you are a male violinist!
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January 13, 2016 at 10:30 PM · You know, the thing that bothers me about this is not that there are many more young women than men accepted into the competition, but the marketing of the women. Those pictures, especially the ones with the over the shoulder come-hither stare, with the dress cut down to the south of France, (and the appropriate cascading hair) I find just plain creepy. I don't want to be thinking about your booty while I'm trying to hear the music you're making. But, I guess there are plenty of people who do find that a bonus, and anything to give yourself an edge, right?
Maybe I'm just an old fogey who's not up with the times.
I just wonder if a young, tough, amazonian girl who sports a buzz cut and likes to wear tuxes on stage would have a chance, in this era. Anybody, especially Laurie, what do you think?
P.S. I find it interesting that the one guy in the lineup was photographed actually playing, and was covered from head to toe.