VC INTERVIEW | Qian Zhou, Singapore International Violin Competition Jury Chair

Applications for the upcoming competition are open until September 15, 2021

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(Photo credit: Courtesy of Qian Zhou)

 

In a few months, the Singapore International Violin Competition (SIVC) will take place for the third time — postponed from last year due to COVID-19 to January 16-28, 2022.

Past laureates of the competition include VC Artists Yu-Chien Benny Tseng, Richard Lin, and Fedor Rudin.

Chinese-born American violinist Qian Zhou is the SIVC Chair of the Artist Committee and Jury, plus Head of Strings at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, where the competition will be held. She spoke with The Violin Channel about this year's competition, its mission, and its protocols.

 

Can you tell me about SIVC’s mission?

This is our third time hosting the competition, and I think the mission has been consistent throughout: for deserving artists from all over the world to show their talent, be heard, and share their music. We want to discover true artists.

We thought a lot about what’s the most important thing for the young players. What do they really need right now? Three things: fine instruments, concerts, and media exposure.

 

Tell me more about the fine instrument loans for all six competition finalists from the Rin Collection.

The other thing I think is very special for our competition is the three-year loans of fine instruments — by Stradivari, Tononi, Montagnana, Guadagnini, Storioni, and Pressenda, courtesy of the Rin Collection — to all six competition finalists.

Instruments are the voices of violinists, without which we are mute. Fine ones are so expensive nowadays, often out of reach of young artists. We believe our instruments will furnish our finalists with exquisite voices to further their careers.

 

We’re coming out of over a year of canceled concerts, and you mentioned the need to give finalists concert opportunities. Can you say more about that and the exposure you’re hoping to give the artists?

We are trying very hard to get more concerts for the artists. Winners of SIVC 2022 have confirmed concert offerings with Aspen Japan; Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra; Guiyang Symphony Orchestra; London Philharmonic Orchestra; National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai; Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra; and the Singapore Violin Festival. Part of our goal is to expand our partnership to regions that may have less involvement with these types of concerts, and we are continuously working to secure more concert partners for 2022.

In addition, participants, which in the past have hailed from 27 countries, have the opportunity to win over $110,000 in cash prizes, receive fine instruments on loan, and meet artist management.

Thanks to The Violin Channel, as well as our own digital media platforms, we will be live-broadcasting our entire competition online. In today’s world, an internet presence has become crucial in launching new careers and gaining popularity. If a contestant deserves a career, he or she will have more opportunities to be spotted by the public through our internet conduits.

 

The SIVC has a longer first round requirement than other, similar international competitions. Why?

Traditionally, a first round lasts for about 20 minutes, with some Paganini Caprices and solo Bach. I've been sitting on the juries of many competitions for many years, and I keep thinking, what would be most beneficial to the players?

If they come all the way to Singapore, I think they would want to be heard more, so we extended the first round to up to 75 minutes split into two rounds. With this timeframe, they have a lot of space to show their talent, and we’ve also reduced the restrictions of the requirements, to let the artists show their best side.

 

After many competitions over the last year and a half have been canceled or moved online, you’re planning to hold this competition in person. Can you say more about the decision-making process and relevant COVID protocol?

Singapore has been one of the most COVID-safe countries throughout the pandemic. According to Bloomberg’s COVID resilience ranking, which rates the best and worst places globally for pandemic safety and response, Singapore currently ranks third in the world for the proportion of its population vaccinated against the virus — 63.8%— and fourth for the fewest total deaths per million residents. Additionally, the Singapore government told Reuters that once 80% of its population is vaccinated, which it anticipates will happen by next month, there’s a possibility of quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated people.

We’re working with the government to create a safe place for artists to just play and enjoy the music. We’ve seen sports events happen successfully in Singapore, and from a governmental perspective, it’s very important that Singapore continues to be connected to the rest of the world — and this competition is part of that.

Even though we’re seeing the rise of COVID variants and can’t predict travel or quarantine protocol for the competition, which is still several months away, we still believe that we can safely hold an in-person competition, as live playing and performance is very important for music. It’s of course a continuously developing situation, which we’re monitoring really carefully. 

 

Those interested in participating in SIVC 2022 should apply by September 15 at singaporeviolincompetition.com.