Prized winners

The competition scene is bigger and better than ever before: Glen Kwok, president of the board of the World Federation of International Music Competitions (WFIMC), speaks to Maria Roberts

This May, the appointment of a new full-time secretary general at WFIMC will be announced; a move that reflects the growth of the Federation not only in terms of members, but also with regards to the increasing responsibilities put on competitions to support their artists.

This is big news for the Federation, and it comes following a worldwide advertising campaign,’ says Kwok on the phone from Geneva. ‘We had two major requirements: first, the candidate must be prepared to live in Geneva – a very big change because all the other former secretary generals could live in their home city – and second, because the Federation is bilingual French and English, the candidate must be able to speak French.’

Kwok is in Switzerland for the general assembly, before heading back to Indianapolis where he is director of the international violin competition there. ‘In the early years, the needs were about being a member of a prestigious organisation, which gave a stamp of approval for competitions that proved they were working with artistic quality at the highest level,’ he explains.

‘Now the needs of the members are about sharing best practice, and about coming together annually to share creative and innovative ideas. It’s not only about the participants, but all the people that attend the competitions. Moreover, a lot of emphasis is now placed on post-competition career development and mentorships.’

What competitions can offer their laureates in the longer term is where the real benefit lies, he says, and not in the attractive and lucrative cash prizes (although, of course, the money is useful for any artist). And yet, while the competition scene is growing, it’s not necessarily getting any easier for musicians to launch their careers.

‘Long gone are the days when you won a competition and became an instant success,’ Kwok agrees. ‘Now we know there are so many competitions, and a great number of winners being produced every year. We have a plethora of talent entering the music world from these competitions, but there are not enough engagements to be able to sustain all of them. It’s getting tougher and tougher to launch a career.’

Full interview Vol 12 / Issue 5 of IAM