Concerto Competition FAQ
- What is the Concerto Competition?
- How are judges selected?
- What are contestants judged on?
- Do I need to bring a music score for judges?
- How do you judge a pianist on “Pitch/Intonation”?
- Why don’t the judges provide an explanation to competitors on their performance?
- Why are contestants ranked within the category?
- What do I do if I notice mathematical errors on my score sheet?
- Do I have to have an accompanist?
- Isn’t it unfair for some contestants to play with an accompanist and some without (not “equal”)?
- Will I be scored differently (lower) if I don’t perform with an accompanist?
- Does the Utah Philharmonic Orchestra have a listing of accompanists that contestants can contact if they would like to find one?
- If I win, do I play the full piece/movement for the performance or do I use the abbreviated version that I competed with?
- If I get sick, have an unexpected conflict, or decide not to compete, may I get a refund on the competition fee?
- Can I compete with another musician/vocalist in a double concerto?
What is the Concerto Competition? The Utah Philharmonic Orchestra Concerto Competition is held annually. It is an opportunity for talented musicians and vocalists around the state to compete for an opportunity to perform with the UPO in the annual “Spotlight Spectacular” performance in May. Please refer to the Contest Guidelines for detailed information about the competition and to print an application.
How are judges selected? Judges are carefully selected, and their performance as judges is as closely scrutinized and evaluated as that of the contestants. They are assessed for several skills and attributes, including impartiality, musical discernment, and consistency. While verbal acuity in explaining judging decisions is valuable and certainly on the list of things we look for in our judges, it is not at the top of the list. As in any ongoing endeavor, we have had judges who have proven their value over the years, and who will be invited to judge again, and we have had others who will not be invited back. We are always on the lookout for an enlarged pool of talent in this area, as the availability and scheduling of judges is a consistent challenge.
What are contestants judged on? There are specific categories contestants will be scored on. Please refer to the specific judging criteria for full information.
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Do I need to bring a music score for judges? No, it is not a requirement of the competition to provide a music score for the judges but it is a good idea for contestants in any performance evaluation.
How do you judge a pianist on “Pitch/Intonation”? “Pitch/Intonation” is the category in which the production of the correct pitch is evaluated. Only those elements of pitch production over which the performer has any control are evaluated. No pianist has ever been graded on intonation. To do so, would indeed be ludicrous. They are, however, like every other musician in the contest, graded on producing the correct pitch.
This is the same criteria used by the Utah High School Activities Association for Solo and Ensemble Adjudications. The UHSAA adjudication sheets for Solos and for Large and Small Ensembles use “Intonation” as the title of a major “Area of Concern”, where it is explicitly defined as “accuracy to printed pitches”, which is also the definition used in the official Utah State Music Curriculum. (The UHSAA Piano Solo adjudication sheet does not use this standard, and instead relegates what it refers to as “note accuracy” to a status as a sub element of “Technique”, evidently somewhat less important than “finger dexterity”. We prefer to use the approach we have taken.)
Why don’t the judges provide an explanation to competitors on their performance? 1) We agree that feedback to the competitor is important. To this end, the scoring categories are quite specific, and the terminology is carefully chosen to reflect that specificity. A judge may have considered that the title of a category would be sufficient to pinpoint an area for improvement. However, we recognize that the meaning of a specific category title may not have been sufficiently intuitive to give a competitor (or their teacher) the information they are seeking. Therefore, in this year’s competition UPO will include a sheet of scoring definitions and criteria as part of the result packet for the contestant.
2) A low category score of “1” or “2” that can be attributed to one or two specific reasons can and should be addressed in a (short) written comment, and judges are encouraged to do so. However, if a performance shows a general deficiency in an area, a judge is neither expected nor encouraged to write an in-depth critique. This event is not a “Solo & Ensemble Adjudication”, and the emphasis of the scoring system is on the performance, not on the details of technique.
3) The level of competition for this event is extremely high in large part due to the outstanding efforts of teachers. The State of Utah has an unusually strong and deep talent pool of musicians, both youth and adult. While a category score of “1” indicates that a contestant is probably not ready to compete at this level, a score of “2” may only reflect a performance against a particularly strong field of competitors. Even so, category scores of “1” or “2” are very rare, indicating that the great majority of contestants are thoroughly prepared to compete. Additionally, a score of “3” is not a “low” score, it is an “average” score, and while it may not be what the performer desired or expected, at this level of competition it is nothing of which to be ashamed.
Why are contestants ranked within the category? UPO is well aware that the concept of “ranking” in competitive events is an issue of controversy in today’s society, especially in academic circles. Several different types of musical events considered “Competitions” take extremes to alleviate or disguise any competitive aspect of the event. Many of these events are at least honest enough to call themselves something other than a competition (i.e., “Festival”, “Adjudication”, or “Evaluation”, etc.), and some have both competitive and non-competitive portions, accompanied by stern warnings that a particular portion “is a competitive Event.”
Given this environment, UPO tries to make it explicitly clear that the Utah Philharmonic Orchestra Concerto Competition, as the title indicates, is a competitive event. It has been a competition from its inception, and has never advertised itself as anything other than that. One of the defining characteristics of a true competition is that the competitors know their standing in relation to the other competitors.
Now, we recognize that the transition from “student” to “competitor” can be traumatic, and we have no desire to make that transition more difficult, especially for the younger participants. Accordingly, we have reviewed our standings system to determine if some sort of median approach is appropriate, especially in the Youth and Junior categories. The Utah Philharmonic Orchestra has modified procedures so that only the top five competitors in a category will be routinely advised of their rankings. Other competitors will only be advised of a ranking upon a written request for that information.
UPO has no quarrel with organizations that, for whatever reasons, decide to ameliorate the competitive aspects of their event. Nor do we have any problem with teachers who decide to steer their students toward less competitive evaluations. We expect that the teacher is the person most qualified to judge a student’s musical and emotional preparedness for competition, and in accordance with a young student’s long term goals as a musician, help them determine when, or if ever, competition is the appropriate route for them.
As a gentle suggestion, however, a teacher who has students of unusual talent and potential is not doing them any great favors in the long run by shielding them from competition, especially if they have the slightest inclination towards becoming a concert performer. Rather, early preparation to deal with the vagaries of competition might be more beneficial, which ultimately comes only through participation in truly competitive events.
What do I do if I notice mathematical errors on my score sheet? Contestant’s score are checked very carefully before they are sent out; however, in a competition of this size it is certainly possible for an incorrect score to slip through. If this has happened to one of your students, we apologize. UPO is ready, willing, and happy to recalculate a contestant’s score (and readjust standings, if necessary) in the event of an error. If the contestant does not bring the error to our attention, however, we have no way of correcting it.
Do I have to have an accompanist? No. Contestants are not required to perform with an accompanist. Since 2011, contestants performing on the Piano or the Harp must perform unaccompanied. There is no requirement either way for all other contestants, so the decision whether to use an accompanist or not is purely an individual choice.
Isn’t it unfair for some contestants to play with an accompanist and some without (not “equal”)? The use of an accompanist is purely an individual choice by the competitor. We provide instruments for an accompanist as part of the contest venue, but there is no requirement, either for or against the use of an accompanist. If you feel that by using an accompanist, you perform better and display greater maturity as a performing artist, by all means use one. There are at least as many disadvantages as advantages to doing so, however, and we would encourage a careful evaluation of the individual situation before making this decision.
It is important to realize that deficiencies in maturity, correct balance, interpretation, etc. are more readily apparent when using an accompanist. The scores of more than one contestant have been adversely affected when it became evident that the accompanist, and not the performer, was the real interpreter of the performance. Contrariwise, more than one contestant has impressed the judges with an ability to “carry the performance” without an accompanist.
Will I be scored differently (lower) if I don’t perform with an accompanist? The judging guidelines are carefully constructed to nullify the presence or absence of an accompanist as an aspect of the performance, except as the interaction between the performer and the accompanist highlights or reflects on the abilities or deficiencies of the performer.
In terms of competition results over the years, there appears to have been no significant difference between using and not using an accompanist. The winners over the history of the competition are quite evenly split as to whether or not they used an accompanist.
Does the Utah Philharmonic Orchestra have a listing of accompanists that contestants can contact if they would like to find one? UPO does not provide accompanist lists or recommend individual accompanists for contestants. (Such lists are usually available from the Music Departments of local colleges or universities).
If I win, do I play the full piece/movement for the performance or do I use the abbreviated version that I competed with? Each contestant will be allowed a maximum of six minutes to perform at the competition and should make necessary cuts to fit the allotted time. However, if the contestant wins the category and is invited to play with the Utah Philharmonic Orchestra, the winner will work with the UPO Music Director to choose the length of time for the performance.
Can I compete with another musician/vocalist in a double concerto? Yes. Works which require multiple performers (double concertos, etc.) are eligible with restrictions. The selection will be judged in the category appropriate to the oldest performer. Each performer must submit an entry application and pay the entry fee.