VC INSIGHT | "How Should a Competition Competitor Handle Rejection?"

Joji Hattori, President of the Menuhin Competition and 1989 Senior first prize winner, shares his thoughts on the subject

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"In this question, there is certainly the issue of age. If a 30-year-old violinist has participated yet again at another competition where he or she has not been able to pass the first round, he or she has could perhaps start realizing that his or her ability just might not be suited to embark on a soloist’s career, for which most competitions are conceived.

But for all violinists competing at a much younger age, including at the Menuhin Competition, the most important realization should be that life is very long, and that in every field, there are early and late developers.

The fact that one 14-year-old violinist has greater abilities than another, says very little about how the same two violinists will compare a few years later.

Specifically at the Menuhin Competition, because we pre-select before the competition’s first round from a huge pool of applicants, we can say with certainty that all competitors are already members of a very small group of highly gifted young musicians. When we look at the history of our competition, the majority of former participants, including those who have not passed the first round, today have impressive professional careers as adult violinists.

The most productive way to handle rejection is to become very objective and analytical about the reason. Why did someone else do better at that exact time when the competition took place. If one can consider every competition as an opportunity to learn how to do better at the next one, the rejection can be converted into an extremely educational 'life experience.'

I look to one example from my own life. In 1988, when I was just 19 years old, I competed at the Kulenkampff Violin Competition, in Cologne, and was kicked out from the first round.

Only two months later, I won third prize at the even more prestigious Carl Nielsen Competition in Denmark. Interestingly, the 2nd Prize Winner of both competitions in Cologne and Denmark happened to be the same person, who is now the concertmistress of the Dresden Philharmonic.

In other words, I managed to improve from a 'first-round exit,' to a finalist, to a third Prize Winner, within only two months.

And this happened NOT because one competition was fairer than the other. It was only because after I was rejected from the competition in Cologne, I listened to all the other candidates who went further and tried to use all my brains to analyze what the others did better."

-Joji Hattori