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VC Young Artist Violinist Joshua Brown on Preparing for a Competition

We caught up with Joshua to discuss what he's learned from competing internationally


In November 2023, violinist Joshua Brown won first prize at the China International Music Competition, receiving an impressive $100,000 prize, a Gold Medal, and three years of concert tours.

Currently studying at the New England Conservatory with Donald Weilerstein, he has won several additional competitions throughout his career — including the 2022 Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis and the Tenth International Violin Competition of Leopold Mozart.

The Violin Channel had a chance to get Joshua's advice for competitions, and what they've taught him.


When did you know you wanted to follow the path of a professional musician?

I have wanted to become a musician for as long as I can remember! Of course, my reasoning behind it has slightly changed over the years. But since I started playing, it has always been my plan to play music professionally.


You have an impressive record of prizes. What qualities do you think are necessary to have to succeed in competitions?

I think the most important quality must be one’s mindset on competition results. Taking either a win or a “loss” too seriously is very unhealthy and distracting from the real purpose of music! Approaching every competition simply as an opportunity to share music is the only sustainable way to participate in multiple competitions. It can be difficult, in the moment, to see things this way, but it is really important if you want to learn and grow from competition experiences.


What do you like most about competitions? What have they taught you?
I really like that competitions give me the opportunity to play so much in a short period of time! It is really challenging and emotionally intense, but that kind of experience is so valuable and makes regular concerts feel like a luxury. I also learn a lot every time that I participate in a competition; the pressure is like a magnifying glass that reveals any weaknesses or insecurities. It is not always pleasant to be under that magnifying glass, but I have found it helpful in deciding the paths along which I would like to keep developing as a musician.
What does your preparation for a big competition look like? Do you have a set schedule for each one?
I like to devote around 2 months to specifically preparing for a competition, but this can change depending on what else is happening in my schedule at the time. In my preparation, I don’t practice every piece every day; I instead take different weeks to focus on different pieces and adjust throughout the preparation process depending on how comfortable I feel with each piece. I also like to perform my competition repertoire as much as possible during my preparation to see how my practice is transferring over to the “real thing.”
Do you have a specific repertoire you are most comfortable with?
I try to choose my competition repertoire solely based on what music I will be able to study intensively for a long period of time, so the most important factor in deciding is simply how emotionally connected I feel to the piece. Often, I will choose some pieces that are actually uncomfortable for me. I feel that the challenge of playing something that is not necessarily in my comfort zone is really important to confront. I strangely enjoy when I can practice a piece for weeks and still feel uncomfortable with it — it feels like there is infinite room for growth, and that can be very exciting to handle in the practice room!
Do you have any pre-concert/competition rituals to help you get in the zone?
If I am playing later in the day, I like to take a nap. Otherwise, I have no rituals or superstitions. Backstage, I will always try to joke around with whoever is nearby— it helps to break that serious, tense atmosphere, and it loosens me up if I can be laughing and having a good time before I play! It’s nice to be reminded that the competition isn’t the most important thing in the world, and that the connections we make with other people can always create joyful moments.
What is at the core of your musical experience – from both a musician and audience perspective? 
First, I always center the emotions and characters that the composer was trying to express when they wrote the music. Of course, my personal relation to the emotion is also very important; I try to think of myself as an actor who channels some of their emotions to better embody the role that they are playing. The third step in the process is then to communicate these emotions to the audience as clearly and honestly as possible. Ideally, through my communication, my audience can then experience their own emotions— whatever might be brought up through the journey of the music that we are all experiencing together. At the core of a musical experience, I would always choose honesty over beauty, safety, or invincibility.
How do you balance your personal life with your musical one? Any travel tips?
I am naturally a very laid-back person, so at home, I like to do relaxing activities with my wonderful friends and family. I go to bed very early and enjoy walking and being in nature. Mindfulness and meditation are also an important part of my life. I think my quiet home life really helps to balance out what can often be a chaotic life of travel. I only have one travel tip: make a packing list and use it!
If you had to give one piece of advice for a young violinist entering their first competition, what would it be?
Don’t take any result — positive or negative— as a representation of your playing, and enjoy every moment on stage! If you can feel that you gave a meaningful and enjoyable performance under such pressure, you know that every regular concert you give can feel that way and hopefully even better. If you can communicate something real and personal under competition conditions, then you have succeeded — regardless of whether you win or lose.
What does your next year look like?
I am lucky to have what looks to be my busiest year yet ahead of me! I will be performing in the United States, Europe, and Asia. One highlight of my schedule is my first-ever concert in Japan, a country that I’ve always wanted to visit. I will also be recording my first album!

upcoming events

may 2024

06may01junQueen Elisabeth Violin Competition12:00 am - (june 1) 11:59 pm Flagey ASBL-VZW, Pl. Sainte-Croix, 1050 Bruxelles, BelgiumEvent Type :competitions Event Tagscompetition,Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition,violinFOLLOW

27mayAll Day31New York Classic Violin Competition(All Day) Manhattan School of Music, 130 Claremont Ave, New York, NY 10027Event Type :competitions Event TagsClassic Violin Olympus International Competition,violin competitionFOLLOW

june 2024

06junAll Day13Khachaturian International Violin Competition(All Day) Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall, 46 Mesrop Mashtots Ave, Yerevan, ArmeniaEvent Type :competitions Event TagsKhachaturian International Competition,violin competitionFOLLOW

08junAll Day16Premio Paolo Borciani International String Quartet Competition(All Day) Romolo Valli Municipal Theatre, Piazza Martiri del 7 Luglio, 1, 42121 Reggio Emilia RE, Italy Event Type :competitions Event TagsPremio Paolo Borciani International String Quartet Competition,string quartet competitionFOLLOW

17junAll Day22Primrose International Viola Competition(All Day) Colburn School, 200 S Grand AveEvent Type :competitions Event TagsPrimrose International Viola Competition,Primrose Viola CompetitionFOLLOW


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