Aaron Rosand: ‘A competition is not fair when teachers face their own students’

Aaron Rosand: ‘A competition is not fair when teachers face their own students’


norman lebrecht

September 18, 2014

The veteran virtuoso and teacher has commented, in a letter to Slipped Disc, on the finals of the Indianapolis contest, an outcome which has provoked widespread discomfort. We reprint his comments with permission:

aaron rosand



A competition can not be fair when teachers have their own students involved in it. Although they can not vote for their pupils , they can easily give lower marks to more worthy candidates.

This practice must be discontinued to achieve fair and unbiased results.

Currently many outstanding young violinists are from Asia : that five of the six finalists chosen are Korean speaks well for their innate abilities and basic training .

However, four of the six are now studying with teachers on the jury.

You can draw your own conclusion.

Aaron Rosand


  • Violistito says:

    This legend has a point. Problem is that the only people more qualified than these distinguished pedagogues and musicians to serve on the jury would be soloists who don’t hold teaching posts. It would be unlikely that top flight soloists could clear their schedules for such an extended period of time to serve on the jury. I’m sure that a competition such as Indianapolis is on the up and up and has policies that are as fair as can be with regard to competitors studying with members of the jury. But one does wonder somewhat, as with many other aspects of this business.

  • Darin Varbanov says:

    It has been an issue continuously and not only in Indianopolis, but in many other competitions around the world. It is understood that the jury decisions will spark suspicion if the adjudicators are expected to assess their own students. To me the only solution would be if the teachers either send students to compete and restrain from sitting in the jury or the other way – to sit in the jury only if they are not going to compare their own students to others. Otherwise, whatever the competition policy is, there will be always doubt on how objective the adjudication is. I believe, there are many qualified professionals around the world, who can make it instead of the respective teachers. Moreover, we should not forget that the final judge is the Audience, being qualified or not.

  • Rosand is a legend. I’ve always thought that he should be better known that he is. He brings sound reason and logic to the controversy. Thank you for reprinting his comments.

  • Anon says:

    Boring Fileclerk, I fear Rosand’s comments are born of reaction, not sound reason.
    Of course I understand the dislike of teachers on juries where their students are performing; but at the highest level it is simply unavoidable, unless no pedagogues are on juries at all, nor conductors, artist managers, or anyone else who might have a connection with an entrant. And then who will be judging?
    The best competitions want to assemble a jury panel with a wide range of relevant experience. Being a top violin teacher, performer, etc. qualifies. Having sourced your jury, can you really then say to a range of pupils who want to enter “sorry, your teacher is on the jury, you can’t enter”? How can you expect a pupil to know that when they choose they teacher five years earlier? Or the other way round, is it fair to say to an eminent violin professor who you would really like on the jury “sorry, because one of your pupils is entering – even though they may not get through the first stages or get anywhere near the jury – you can’t be on this panel” and deny them a fortnight or more of work?
    There’s no real solution save for transparency. Provided jurors declare any interest they might have, that’s as far as we can go, and must rely on jurors’ own sense of fair play for the rest.

    • Anon, Rosand speaks from a place of experience both as a performer, educator, and judge. Being transparent in this world only means that you publicly admit to these competition being rigged. Perhaps the real question should be whether or not competitions serve a useful function in the classical world.

      • Milka says:

        Bingo !!!! do the competitions serve
        any useful purpose ?????!!!!!!! no………..How does one discern if an adjudicator can rise above their limitations and prejudices to recognize a talent that goes counter to the given norm ? If you have five super violin technicians as judges who may also be musically dim which often is quite common in the fiddle world, who does one suppose will be awarded the prize?Like minded dim ones ….it is a given.
        Could a player in this age comparable to the likes of a Szigeti ,
        Thibaud, or a Kreisler ever win a prize? of course not .Most violin competitions are about cheap virtuosity .The only time to worry is if the dreadful Butterfly violin concerto shows up as a required work .

  • Will Duffay says:

    He’s surely absolutely right. And even if there’s no deliberate vote rigging, teachers must be tempted unconsciously to award higher marks based on their knowledge of their pupils’ abilities, not on their performance on the day.

  • agatha says:

    Yes, is a form of corruption don´t should be acepted in all the competions around the world. The last Tchaikosvky competion was clean, and Daniil Trifonov won.

  • Tripp says:

    Don’t punish them for being great teachers!
    They can’t help if their excellent students advance further than others in competitions!
    Having great teachers on the jury makes competitions more interesting and worthwhile competing in them. Of course, we would like to think that they have their integrity intact as well..