One of the most important international competitions for young (ages 16 to 29) violinists takes place in the United States every four years. (The other top-tier classical-music competitions that include violinists, Moscow’s International Tchaikovsky and Belgium’s Queen Elizabeth, also run on four-year cycles.) While one might expect the US entry on that list to be hosted in California or New York, the venue is: Indianapolis, of 500-mile auto-race fame—and for excellent reasons.
Indiana University (Bloomington) has one of the most outstanding music schools in the world, and that is where violinist Josef Gingold brought his remarkable career to a conclusion, as a Distinguished Professor of violin. Gingold was born in Poland in 1909. When his family came to America, his violin studies continued with Vladimir Graffman, father of the pianist Gary. Gingold returned to Europe in 1927 to study with Eugene Ysaÿe, a towering figure in the history of the violin. A composer as well as a virtuoso, Ysaÿe was the dedicatee of the Franck Sonata (1886), and led the first performance of Debussy’s string quartet (1893).
Gingold came back to the US and tried to build a career in the depths of the Depression. He contented himself with Broadway pit-orchestra work until 1937, when Arturo Toscanini hired him for the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Gingold’s career progressed to positions as Concertmaster of the Detroit and then Cleveland orchestras, the latter at the request of George Szell. Gingold remained with the Cleveland Orchestra until 1960, when he joined the music faculty of Indiana University. In 1982, Josef Gingold provided the artistic guidance for the founding of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.
I think that the Indianapolis violin competition has succeeded to the impressive extent it has because of three factors. One, Josef Gingold’s worldwide reputation, not only as a performer and teacher but also as a fair-minded member of the juries of all the major violin competitions (including the Tchaikovsky and the Queen Elizabeth) made some degree of early success a relatively safe bet. (However, sustaining an enterprise into its fourth decade requires much more than that.) Two, the synergy with Indiana University’s music school, which attracts students from all over the world. Third, and perhaps most importantly: if people started a violin competition in New York or Los Angeles, it would be just one more cultural event in a market crowded with them. Whereas in Indianapolis, an international music competition does not have much local same-tier competition for attention, donors, and volunteers. (I think the same thing can be said for Fort Worth and the Van Cliburn competition, in the piano world.)
This year’s Final round of competitors’ performances runs from Wednesday through Saturday, September 12 through 14. The preliminary rounds and semi-final round video streams are now available for delayed viewing (scroll down for the preliminaries), and the final rounds will be streamed live. The audio and video production values are excellent, and the playing has been of a very high standard. The finalists are: Ioana Cristina Goicea (Romania); Risa Hokamura (Japan); Luke Hsu (US); Anna Lee (US); Shannon Lee (US/Canada); and Richard Lin (Taiwan/US).
It is great that Mr. Gringold’s talent and energy lead to such a vibrant program so many years later. What is perhaps not so great is the institution seems to be more about bringing outsiders to out of the way Indiana than in training and promoting local musical talent to the wider world. Given that local investment seems to be the reason for it’s continued existence, it would have been nice if the priority of developing local talent had been remembered,
It’s the story everywhere John, just another example of the race to the bottom that has infected every part of our ‘society’. I have a friend who has been a college counselor for the last 15 years and he says they’ve all transitioned their admissions departments to look out of state precisely because they can charge so much more for out of state tuition. In state, local kids don’t pay enough and probably have family nearby that could hold the school administration to their promises. My friend was at the University of San Diego when they had fucked up and admitted a number of in state kids before later denying them because those spots had been layer filled by higher paying out of state kids. The in state kids were made aware with a last second email telling them to look elsewhere for a college education right before school was supposed to start. Word finally got out and the news jumped on the story before the chancellor made a half hearted public apology while doing nothing to help the students turned away.
I went to a local talk by the President of my former school Georgia Tech. He was talking all about some 12 year old Pakistani girl who was taking engineering classes from Pakistan through their online program. I asked if it wouldn’t be better to celebrate some local kid who worked hard, had his family behind him and made good. That story was happening all around me when I was there actually on campus, at a state school of course. He didn’t respond, perhaps if I spoke Urdu? While I admit it was nice of her father to do her coursework, this fake but no doubt rich Malala is the future. Getting her boxes checked on her way to the vacuous modern transnational elite. Another institution destroyed from traitors within.
‘Another institution destroyed from traitors within.’ What a great description. Everything is already terrible and we haven’t even begun to feel the consequences of the hollowing out of the public commons. Communities have been annihilated so that we are all now just sitting ducks for whatever ‘they’ have planned for us. Not to extrapolate too, but the last five years of my life have been an absolute hell and I fear that it’s just the beginning.
By the way, your quips about dad doing her homework had me laughing out loud. And I would have loved to have heard what that Quisling would have had to say in response to your question. I’m sure it would involve a lot of buzzwords and insinuations that it’s over your head.
What aspect of the word “International” do you not understand? The donors know what they are donating to, and that is: the only world-class international violin competition in the Western Hemisphere.
BTW, competitions are not about “developing” talent except for perhaps the aspect that the pressure of performing with an orchestra behind you and a large audience in front of you might bring out your best.
To even apply for consideration as a contestant, you have to submit world-class videos demonstrating your ability to master the most challenging violin pieces. One contestant, God bless her, has selected Shostakovich’s first violin concerto as her post-classical-era piece. Do you have any idea how difficult that piece is?
Indiana violin students who are really serious about it all benefit from the IVCI’s raising the profile of classical music in the heartland. I am sure that the local Music Educators’ National Conference affiliate or affiliates have adjudications and master classes for Indiana middle school and high school students. Nobody is getting shorted, and many will benefit. But this is an international competition. In exactly the same way as the Indianapolis 500 is an international competition. Nobody races in the Indy 500 as their first-ever professional race. And the pool of driving talent with a crack at winning the 500 is as much from outside of North America as from it.
I am glad no one is being shorted and many will benefit, though I don’t see how that could be when the taxpayers are footing the bill. Remember state budgets balance, so that money is coming from the local tax payer, who probably thinks state investment is for the benefit of their own. As the contestants from far and wide come to compete, I hope they will be thankful of what is being done for them. I expect they only will be annoyed in having to deplane in a place they would prefer to just flyover.
“taxpayers are footing the bill”?
International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, Inc. is a private nonprofit:
Here are their top sponsors:
Taxpayers are not footing the bill. IVCI is a private foundation. The state and city arts funds make donations, but the bulk of the funding comes from donors such as wealthy individuals and family charitable trusts and banks and large (national practice) law firms, medical practices, drug companies, and architecture firms. Just the same as major symphony orchestras such as in Boston. Yes, there is some state and local money but I doubt it comes up to 1%. According to Guidestar, the charitable trust in memory of Mr. Gingold that supports IVCI has assets over $11 million.
Now, if we want to talk about taxpayers getting hosed so that a few people can get entertained the way they want to get entertained, how about Worcester, Massachusetts, which just promised a AAA baseball farm team $73 million to move from Rhode Island to Massachusetts.
BTW, professional baseball teams are exempt from US antitrust laws! The owners can fix prices, allocate territories, conspire to keep the price of inputs artificially low, and get credulous jock sniffers in public office to piss away the taxpayers’ money on their need to relive their glory days or fantasies.
I know many people, some from outside the US and most of the others from outside Indiana, who were educated at IU and I know that there is a vibrant community that welcomes foreign exchange students and foreign faculty members. You can’t run a world-class music school without people from outside the US. Just the way you can’t have an Indy 500 without people from outside the US.
Instead of ruing that they have to deplane in Indiana, I bet more than a few of the 39 IVCI contestants (most but not all of whom are from outside the US) might spend some time sizing up their long-term job prospects, and not with a sense of looming dread. I could be happy teaching music history at Bloomington. Somebody who feels in their bones that they are not going to be the next Itzhak Perlman might think, hmmm, after a few years on the road, this might be a nice place to settle down–perhaps I should make a few acquaintances.
Thanks for the clarification on the funding. I assumed incorrectly it was the State University. That withdraws any objection I have to it and I will join you in being annoyed about the stadiums for the minor league and wish the contestants from all over the best.
Can’t go west
Can’t go east
I’m stuck in Indianapolis with a fuel pump that’s deceased
Ten days on the road now I’m four hours from my hometown
Is this hell or Indianapolis?
With no way to get around
To clarify the comments below that are in a closed thread:
Indiana University is a state university, and that is where Mr. Gingold taught.
But for many excellent reasons, the Competition is a private affair.
The more you know about modern education, that rather than trying to shoehorn a once-every-four-years but nearly all-consuming international event into the Bloomington campus of IU, which has its own schedule and priorities, it makes much more sense to have a separately managed entity run the competition, and run it in Indianapolis–easier air connections, more hotels, performance facilities that are more readily available, etc. As well as a larger catchment basin of people who might buy tickets and show up.
Over and above the logistical and other practical issues, there is the ethical issue that some competitions apparently allow teachers and former teachers of competitors to serve as jurors and it seems in some cases, vote cash prizes for their own students or former students.
To have Indiana University host the competition might make some people question the impartiality of the judging process (which of course is largely subjective). Having a private foundation run the event and get expert help in keeping the contest fair is the way out of that trap.
So, plaudits to all the participants, staff, donors, volunteers, and in-kind supporters.