Our friend Philip Setzer, violinist of the Emerson Quartet, was one of the judges at the Indianapolis Competition, which was tainted by controversy over the high number of judges’ pupils among the finalists.
Phil had no students in the finalists line-up. Nor had he ever agreed to judge a competition before. Here’s his frank and open account of what he saw.
As far as Indy goes, I certainly understand your suspicion and how it looks from the outside. I’ve been invited to sit on several juries in the past but never wanted to do it because I wasn’t sure how fair/political they were. I decided to go to Indy because I know and trust Jaime Laredo completely and had heard nothing but good things about the way this competition was run and respected the rest of the jury for their knowledge and reputation of honesty. I also wanted to do it in memory of Mr. Gingold, who taught me for 3 years when I was a young boy (I LOVED my lessons with him). I think the process was as careful and honest as I could imagine.
I think it’s fine to question these competitions. I don’t love them myself but they are set up to help young musicians get a career boost that they deserve, or at least something to work toward–a goal, if nothing else, at a time when young musicians perhaps need that. There are certainly other ways to build a successful career, but this competition is set up to help the new generation. At a certain point, which I think we have reached, the questioning and difficult to support accusations only hurt the winners of the competition, not to mention the competition itself and the people who have worked so hard and contributed so much to enable it to exist at all.
I gave JinJoo Cho a very high score for her performance of the Korngold Concerto because she played it with great warmth and sincerity (and technical prowess). Some parts of her earlier rounds had some inconsistencies, but that was true for everyone and the points were tallied from the whole competition, so it really was an overview of each contestant. She had something special that reached the jury and the audience. I wish you could have heard her at the closing ceremony, playing the difficult Carmen Fantasy by Waxman, in a very dead acoustical space, literally facing the jury, who were sitting in the front row on the side directly in her line of vision, and in front of the 5 other finalists she had defeated. I wish you could have seen the warmth she showed those 5 and their reciprocated support and happiness for her. The jury all cheered her too and I know we were proud of her courage and felt good about our choice, her potential, her future. I agree the pots need stirring in the music biz, but let’s not “throw out the baby with the bath water”.
Anyway, I wasn’t going to allow myself to get embroiled in this, but wanted to elaborate and give you a bit of the other, more positive side of things. Hope this helps in some small way. I am either an honest man or a fool–probably both!
all the best
P.S. You are welcome to put this on the record as a respectful view from the other side.