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VC INTERVIEW | Tanya Bannister on the Evolving Vision of the Concert Artists Guild

Applications for the Concert Artists Guild's 2022 Victor Elmaleh Competition are to be received by 21 January 2022 — with the Finalist's Showcase and winners' announcement to be streamed LIVE here on The Violin Channel on May 25 and 26


The Violin Channel recently sat down, in New York City, with Concert Artists Guild President Tanya Bannister to get a better understanding of the exciting new changes, directions, and opportunities she and her CAG team are offering the winners of next year's 2022 Victor Elmaleh Competition. We also dug to the root to find out of the types of attributes she feels successful 21st Century musicians need to possess for success in today's constantly-evolving classical music world.

The 2022 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition, open to all instruments, vocal, and chamber ensembles, will be held again virtually for the second year in a row due to the pandemic situation.

"We are looking for compelling artists that reach people through their music, that is paramount. Beyond that, we look to partner with artists that have a vision, creativity, hunger, and a wish to share and engage." - Concert Artists Guild President, Tanya Bannister





Tell us about the history of the Concert Artists Guild Competition — particularly when was it founded and its main goals?

CAG has helped young musicians launch careers since 1951. When it was founded, CAG focused on debuts and showcases, which gave publicity and a platform for winners to show off their talent.


How has CAG evolved and adapted over the recent years to reflect the changes and performance needs of the music industry?

CAG has gone on to offer not only debuts but comprehensive management, concert bookings, and professional career development and coaching. Debuts in a great hall used to be more of a significant milestone in a young performer's career when reviews and coverage in newspapers meant more. These days, a more complex roadmap is necessary to fulfill a musician’s career arc.


Are you seeing booking returns now for your artists? Can you provide some examples?

Yes, definitely. Most foreign tours will be held after the New Year, but our U.S.-based musicians are outperforming. VC Violinist Geneva Lewis, for example, who won CAG in 2020, has concerts all over the world this coming season, including Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand, Wigmore Hall in London, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, as well as Sarasota Orchestra; Duluth and Augusta symphonies; Emory, Purdue, and Pepperdine universities; and Kravis Center and Dame Myra Hess series.


What were the silver linings of COVID-19 for CAG and your artists, if you’ve witnessed any?

I think there were a few silver linings. Musicians have become way more tech savvy and have learned to share their music and story virtually in a more compelling way. I think everyone has learned that multiple platforms are necessary to survive in the music industry. I have seen artists really broaden their vision for what a career looks like for them. It’s a period in which musicians are really asking themselves critical questions which is necessary for such a tough profession.


What are you specifically looking for in a musician you accept onto your roster? What are those special factors you're searching for that you can help shape to create a highly successful artist in today’s landscape?

We are looking for compelling artists that reach people through their music, that is paramount. Beyond that, we look to partner with artists that have vision, creativity, hunger, and a wish to share and engage. All our roster musicians are very different and true to themselves, that is what we look for.


You will host this year’s competition predominantly online? How will this work and how will you ensure the performers chosen’s magnetism will transfer from the screen to the stage?

Yes, we decided to do another virtual competition for a few reasons. Firstly, it gives opportunity for every musician to apply, regardless of financial means. Particularly after the pandemic, we don’t want to stress musicians by asking them to come to NYC and invest an enormous amount of money.

Secondly, we have been able to reach a broader non-NY-based jury which I think benefits the musicians. We have prominent conductors, major orchestral administrators, and musicians that would otherwise not come to NY. Our jury deliberates on a varied material package rather than making a snap judgment in a quick 20-minute live audition.

There is no perfect application process and I admit nothing beats hearing an artist live. The reality though is that most musicians get booked from a good video so their music has to transmit over the internet.


What are the key dates for this year's competition?

November 8, 2021: Applications open

December 5, 2021: Earlybird deadline (save $40 on the application fee)
NB: in order to qualify for the earlybird discount, your application and fee must be submitted and paid by December 5

January 21, 2022: Final deadline

March 18, 2022: Semifinals/finals materials deadline

April 18-24, 2022: Finalist Interviews

May 25, 2022: Finalists Showcase — Live video broadcast on Violin Channel

May 26, 2022: Winners Announcement — Live video broadcast on Violin Channel


What will the 2022 winners receive? How does CAG support your musician's long term?

We generally keep artists on the roster for 3-5 years but CAG has a lifelong supportive network and community.

Grand Prize winners receive:

Ambassador Award winners receive:

      • North American management with CAG
      • New York debut performance
      • Participation in CAG 360

Additional prizes may include:

      • Chamber Music America Showcase Performance
      • More than 40 Performance Prizes with leading orchestras, concert series, and festivals
      • Digital EP released on Bright Shiny Things label (winners to be selected in consultation with Bright Shiny Things)
      • Video produced by Four/Ten Media (winners to be selected in consultation with Four/Ten Media)
      • GEWA case (for string players, winners to be selected in consultation with GEWA music USA)
      • Artist Website Design


Why should exceptionally talented young musicians and ensembles apply to CAG? How can they feel comfortable putting their career path in the trust of the CAG team?

Conservatories and universities focus mostly on playing and academics. CAG puts musicians into the marketplace through an incredible management team, introduction to musicians that they will collaborate with on the roster, and comprehensive professional development.

There has to be chemistry and trust between CAG and the artist. We place a great deal of importance on the interview. The collaboration has to work both for the musician and the organization.


How do you see the classical music world evolving in the coming 10 years? Will your decisions reflect this?

I have no crystal ball but we at CAG want to work with powerful musicians that will innovate and take us in directions that we haven’t thought of before.




upcoming events

may 2024

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june 2024

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