With the 2017 Michael Hill International Violin Competition currently underway in Queenstown and Auckland, VC recently caught up with a number of former prize winners, to get a better understanding of their time in New Zealand - and the opportunities the biennial event has since presented.
Czech Philharmonic Concertmaster and former 1st Prize winner, VC Artist Josef Spacek guest blogs about his 2009 experience.
"I was a student at the Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia when I first heard about the Michael Hill Competition, in New Zealand.
A few of my classmates had told me it was an amazing experience, so in 2009 I set about applying.
Unfortunately my entry tape was rushed and not my best, and I was initially wait-listed as the competition's 1st alternate. But luckily someone dropped out and the spot opened up for me.
I traveled to Queenstown with little expectation, as I had not done the preparation I felt was required, but thought "a free trip to the most beautiful country on Earth – heck yes!"
I think this lack of pressure allowed me to relax though – and ultimately aided me in producing some of my best competition performances.
When the winner was announced, and it was me – I could not believe it. I was in complete shock!
Since winning the 2009 competition, the exposure it generated opened up many new paths for my career – including large amounts of local media in my native Czech Republic, which has aided me enormously.
But I think the most valuable asset from the prize was the 5-week tour of New Zealand which allowed me the opportunity to perform concertos, recitals, give interviews and conduct teaching masterclasses – literally thrust me into the real world.
The made-to-measure development prize also assisted me immensely – providing me the opportunity to work with a New Zealand physiotherapist on my body alignment and it also delivered me with a beautiful, perfectly tailored concert suit, which I still wear today.
Throughout the past 6 years, I have also learnt so much from Sir Michael Hill himself. He has been a wonderful mentor and friend to me and I am so very grateful.
Sir Michael taught me a lot about goal setting and the visualisation of my future – and he was even on hand, with handy advice when the time came to purchase my beautiful wife's engagement ring.
I wish the best of luck to all of this year's candidates.
VC ARTIST JOSEF SPACEK | PROKOFIEV VIOLIN CONCERTO NO. 2 | 3RD MVT | 2009 MICHAEL HILL INTERNATIONAL VIOLIN COMPETITION | 1ST PRIZE