With the 2016 Menuhin Competition opening rounds set to commence this coming Friday, 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 biennial event has presented.
2010 Junior 2nd Prize Winner and 2014 Senior 1st Prize Winner, VC ‘Young Artist’ Stephen Waarts guest blogs about his eventful experience.
“I was fortunate enough to participate in the Menuhin Competition not only once but twice, in both the junior and senior categories. The experiences were very different in a lot of ways, but I remember the warm feeling I felt from the competition and its participants both times.
Participating in the junior category in 2010 was my first international competition away from home and one of the first times I had the chance to see and experience the violin playing of peers my age from all around the world. An Icelandic volcano decided to erupt on the day that I was to fly from my home in California to Norway and shut down all travel to Europe for a few days, so I remember it was quite uncertain that I would even be able to compete. I ended up arriving at the competition four or five days late, on the same day I needed to perform in the first round—in fact I had the honor of being the last to make it to Oslo, and the competition was kind enough to let me perform last as well. I think I played ok given the circumstances and I passed to the finals, which went much more smoothly compared to the first round! I ultimately left Oslo with the second prize and a lot of inspiration from the trip and the people I met in and around the competition. I actually continue to meet musicians that remember me from then, from accompanying me in the conservatory orchestra in the finals, for example!
After my wonderful experience at the competition in Oslo, I always thought I would like to return to the senior section, so four years later I decided to apply to participate in the Menuhin Competition in Austin. This experience, being only two years ago, I remember much more clearly, and again there was a warm and friendly feeling from the beginning. Whereas in Oslo I didn’t know anybody else in the competition before I arrived, I knew almost all of the senior participants in Austin from various summer festivals and schools, so it really did feel in many ways like a reunion or summer camp of some sort.
My hosts in Austin were quite amazing and I couldn’t thank them enough; in addition to hosting me they also hosted three junior participants and their mothers. They took great care of all of us and it was actually really nice to stay in a house with so many people, as it made us all more relaxed and sociable I think. The competition itself was again a great experience, and all the musicians I collaborated with in my performances were first-class, which made it a great learning experience as well. When I heard that I won the first prize, I remember my first thought was disbelief that I would have the opportunity to play with the Cleveland Orchestra the next day—the competition had arranged for them to give their gala closing concert in Austin. I wish the competitors in London 2016 (sounds like the Olympics, I know) the best of luck, and I hope that they will all make the absolute most of their time in such a special festival!