Competitions have always been a popular fixture in music. Whether you agree with them or not, contests have taken place since the beginning of time, and it’s often the case that the ‘best’ person doesn’t necessarily win; music, being so subjective, is open to many interpretations and, often, beyond technical issues, it’s all a matter of personal taste. However, one aspect relating to competitions always remains true, and that’s the superb preparation and performance opportunity which they presents to the young performer. The fact that a programme must be performance ‘ready’ by a certain date and time can provide a marvellous motivational ‘tool’, instigating much improvement, commitment, and dedication. I have certainly found this amongst my own pupils.
Over the last eighteen months it hasn’t been possible to attend competitions in person, and therefore many students have done the next best thing – participate online. Online competitions have popped up all over the place, and, whilst we may have been initially sceptical as to whether students and teachers would balk at the idea of presenting their programmes online, conversely, they have become a very popular medium for showcasing young (and more mature) talents. There are many advantages: the possibility of recording at home on the student’s own instrument, being able to perform and record the performance as many times as is necessary, and, of course, no travel time or costs are involved. But probably the most beneficial advantage is that a student can participate from anywhere in the world. Therefore, could this be the new way forward for the piano competition?
The London Youth Piano Competition was founded by Dr. Sally Wave, who is a pianist, educator and composer. Her ambition was to create an international competition from London, which followed her earlier initiatives in co-founding the successful, in-person Wimbledon International Piano Competition. Sally has greatly expanded on the original concept of the LYPCO, with new structures and categories.
The 2021 LYPCO online competition was a huge success with participants from 36 countries including Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North and South America, and Australasia; in total, there were 467 entries. Pianists Yuki Negishi and Mark Nixon joined Sally to adjudicate each award, and they were supported by a series of other leading pianists, or competition ‘ambassadors’, who helped promotions via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other media platforms. “The benefit of having an online competition is that we have been able to attract people from so many countries,” said Sally. “Classical music is not so much appreciated everywhere these days and fewer musicians are interested in performing classical music, but after the experience of this competition all our participants will be hugely encouraged to continue their studies. Really, we can see how many people all over the world do love classical music.”
Sally has been “absolutely overwhelmed” by the range of entries. “Naturally, standards varied, but even among some of the smaller children, their playing just blows your mind.”
The results of the 2021 competition are now published on the competition website (www.lypco.co.uk) and according to the type of medal awarded, portraits of the winners are framed in colours representing crystal, gold, silver, and bronze. As might be expected, there were a raft of different classes, from the concerto competition and free choice classes to a Beethoven prize.
The 2022 competition will continue online and opportunities have been opened for companies and other organisations to sponsor one or more prizes for LYPCO 2022, for which global support is confidently expected again.
I’m honoured and excited to be the featured composer at the 2022 competition. My music is now being showcased at several piano competitions worldwide, with many thanks to Schott Music for their generous prize donations. There will be two classes for the Schott Music Prize – a junior and senior category.
To participate in the junior prize, students will need to prepare two pieces from my volume No Words Necessary (Schott Music), and to participate in the senior prize, one piece must be prepared from my advanced volume, Simply Driven (Schott Music).
There will be a digital Schott book gift voucher prize for the winners of the classes.
I will be joining the jury panel for the adjudication of both Schott awards, and I really can’t wait to hear students play my music.
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
For more information, please visit the publications page, here.