With the 2018 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis drawing to a dramatic climax this weekend, VC recently caught up with a number of former prize winners, to get a better understanding of their time at the competition – and the opportunities the quadrennial event has since presented.
In a VC-exclusive blog, Italian-born German violin virtuoso and former 1st Prize winner, VC Artist Augustin Hadelich talks us through his 2006 experience:
“Winning the Gold Medal at the Indianapolis Competition was a huge breakthrough for me. Now more than ever, it is hard to distinguish yourself when you first start out. However, winning a competition doesn’t by itself make a career. The real test is whether the career keeps going after the winner’s concerts are over, through re-invitations. Therefore, the pressure never quite lets up, and although luck plays a role, it’s essential to be persistent, resilient, and organized.
I always found competitions stressful. I enjoy making music with other musicians, but had a really hard time competing against them, especially since many of the participants in the 2006 Indianapolis competition were my friends from music school or festivals. During the competition I avoided social media, reading reviews or watching other violinists. I didn’t even tell my parents back in Italy about the competition, since that would make them nervous, which would make me nervous! I remember distracting myself by watching the US open, which was happening at the same time, and am grateful for my understanding and kind host family.
I tried to pretend that each round was a concert. It helped that the audience was so wonderful and supportive. It’s terrible when you see audience members at some competitions making notes when a contestant makes a mistake. In Indianapolis people just came to enjoy the performances and made me feel welcome on stage.
My most memorable moment was standing on stage when the results were announced, starting with sixth prize, counting down. When the second prize was announced, and I realized that I had won, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I think I didn’t sleep for 2 days afterwards!
I am grateful that the IVCI didn’t overwhelm me with a million concerts immediately. I had time to prepare new programs before the concert tours started. For the first few years, I gained experience traveling and juggling repertoire while playing with many smaller orchestras. By the time of my Carnegie Hall debut in 2008, I had gained confidence as well as performing experience. Then came the call in the summer of 2008: there was a cancellation at the Hollywood Bowl. Could I play Prokofiev’s second concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in two days? If this question came in 2006, I would have felt overwhelmed, but by 2008 I was ready for the adventure! From this and other last minute cancellation calls, I learned to never to go anywhere without my violin and my concert clothes!