Compensation for competition losers?

Compensation for competition losers?


norman lebrecht

September 14, 2011

The account I published yesterday of how young talent is deceived and abused at classical music competitions is by no means exceptional. An entire industry exists to exploit young dreams and nothing is done to police it.

There exists a European Union of Music Competitions for Youth (EMCY), regulated under German law, and a World Federation of International Music Competitions (WFIMC), based in Geneva. Both receive public funding and provide sedate employment for well-pensioned time servers.

It’s about time the EMCY and WFIMC were made to recompense competitors who have been mistreated by their member organisations – whether by being enticed to a contest under false promises, or by being robbed of a prize by a corrupt jury. They should, at the very least, repay travel and accommodation expenses laid out by impecunious young musicians who have been enticed into a time-wasting trap.

Music competitions need to be brought within the remit of international law, with an industry code that can be called to account.


  • Nina Tichman says:

    This is a true morass of cheating, politicking and taking terrible advantage of young musicians. We used to worry that participating in too many contests would iron out all semblances of individuality as the contestants tried to please everyone – not sure that this has happened, but the cynicism of the organizations and the juries is truly monumental. It might be a start to make a rule that no member of the jury can have a current or former student (last 3 years) participate. Or possibly have not “competitions” but offer the opportunity for a number of musicians to play several times for an audience that includes conductors, concert presenters, press and managers – a kind of mini-festival without declared prizes.

  • Luciano says:

    But is the competition mentioned in the previous article a member of either of these organisations? Need they follow their rules? (Assuming they have any).

    In any case some of the bigger ones do have some dubious practices. For example if you look at the Cadaques competition, there are 60 conductors in the first round, 50 invited directly on the basis of CVs, and the last ten places going to people who come and do a ‘preliminary audition’ in person. All of these people (and it can be well in excess of 100 candidates total) pay a 305 euro entrance fee. That’s quite unique amongst competitions.

    And then you look at the repertoire list….. a surprising number of lesser known works that are only published by Trito Editions, who as it happens are run by the same people as the competition! You must have an original score of course! Having said that you may full price for an original and then be sold a photocopy with a stamp on it to say it is an original! And this is one of the respected competitions….

  • I can only agree with Luciano. Cadaques competition has very bad reputation among young conductors – it clearly seems to be a money making machine. I participated in a dozen competitions myself and only a couple of them were fair and well organized in my opinion. I even have thought about “rating” all of them on my blog with some of my colleagues.

  • Andrew Bennett says:

    There seem to be very many unscrupulous competitions at all levels. But it is very hard to eliminate completely the conflict of interests that are inferred from a teacher being on the jury. One way would be to wait until all the applications had been received before inviting the jury and thus only choose members who do not have students involved. But top performers’ and even top teachers’ diaries just don’t work like that – and in general and with good reason the status of a competition is measured by the calibre of the jury. It is only natural that current and former students apply for competitions where their teacher is on the jury, and it is also natural that – even if unconsciously – the teacher approves of what their student does. The best practice is for the jury to have a wide enough spread that a single vote is unlikely to change major jury decisions; and also a requirement for teachers to declare their interest in jury discussions. If there were a perfect solution, someone would have implemented it already!