Sunday, October 18, 2009

2010, a Year of Competitions

A long time ago, during my first year with the Rochester Philharmonic and my freshman year at the Eastman School of music, a poster appeared on the Eastman bulletin board announcing a trumpet competition in Geneva, Switzerland. How this ambitious young player wished there would be a tuba competition. One year later at the same time of year on the same bulletin board an announcement for an international horn competition in Geneva was posted, and the following year there arrived an announcement for a trombone competition, which, by now I had learned was the prestigious Geneva International Competition. The logic of what would appear the following year kept me excited, I waited the whole year and when I saw that same Geneva Competition poster on the bulletin board, I ran to see what the repertoire for the tuba competition would be; it was an announcement for another trumpet competition!

The explanation is easy; in most of the world the tuba wasn’t considered a solo instrument at that time. I’ve subsequently addressed the incredible growth of our instrument many times, now it’s time to address the present and the abundance of the copious competitions available for tuba.

Today we have the Markneukirchen, Germany Competition, the International Competition of the City of Porcia, Italy, the Geneva International Music Competition, the ITEC (International Tuba and Euphonium Congress) competition, the Brno (Check Republic) International Festival Competition, the Jeju (Korea) International Brass Competition and the Guebweller (France) International Competition, just to mention a few of the many competitions that are available today.

These and many others are serious competitions that offer substantial cash rewards but perhaps more importantly, they expose the winners to international acclaim that can give inertia to a very successful career. There was a period when some of the frequent competition winners, I.e., Carol Jantsch and Roland Szentpali, considered the several cash prizes they won as part of their principal income.

There is, however, much more to these competitions than just the prestige and the cash prizes. These competitions are actually a musical version of the Olympics, the greatest athletes, or in our case musicians and specifically tubists, meet and compete to see who is the best. Competition is a good thing; it gives us the motivation to be our best. Speaking personally, I cannot imagine what my level of accomplishment would have been without the more that fifty years influence of my deep friendship and competition with Tommy Johnson. We talked about it many times and agreed that our long association motivated us to reach far higher levels than we would have without the other’s influence.

Like Olympic competitions, these “Olympics for musicians” these “world championships” that are held throughout the globe, have a deep effect on the way in which we view the growth of our art. Like the Olympics, we begin to view ourselves from the specter of how we envision world-class excellence, and as simple as it sounds, we get better.

And like the Olympics, not everybody will take home a gold metal when the competitions are over, like the Olympics, some will go home disappointed. Everyone, however, will return home enriched and with a greater view of the real state of the art, our art.

2010 is an abundant year of many such competitions; they will be available to whoever is interested in Europe, North America and Asia as a participant or a listener.

Good luck and enjoy.

Tokyo, Japan, October 19, 2009