Catching up on my Harp Column reading today, I am contemplating Kimberly Rowe’s frustration that no 1st Prize Winner was chosen for the most recent Israel Contest.
Having won the 7th Israel Contest (’79), I can attest that winning a major competition used to be the leg-up that a young artist absolutely needed to move forward. But, the market has drastically changed. Record companies no longer give out recording contracts. Debut recitals are not attended by critics. It also doesn’t help that main-stream music business still looks at the harp as a luxury item. So the burden falls on the shoulders of a world class competition to stand behind its winner whom they believe is the unique, supremely special, creative individual who has that immediate connection with an audience. The burden of the winner is to take her or his abilities to the world stage and make the most of their win until a new winner is chosen.
Why didn’t Israel or Laskine chose a 1st Prize Winner? Who’s to know but the jury? A jury only judges what it hears at the moment. A different jury on a different day might make an entirely different choice. Choosing a 1st Prize Winner just to have a winner is no longer criteria. The market is already flooded with beautifully trained, expressively talented, intelligent, performance perfect, young competition winners.
Pearl Chertok once said, What are we, a bunch of Jewish mothers? Competitions are a huge disappointment to those who don’t win and most especially to finalists when a 1st Prize is not chosen. But, the world stage is not in the business of motherly kindness and a jury’s decision is final. Those who do win the 1st Prize then know that it has substance and is not just something with which to fill out a resumé.