The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
A gateway to recognition for young musiciansLooking at Young Concert Artists in today’s music world
A gateway to recognition for young musiciansLooking at Young Concert Artists in today’s music world
So, YCA encourages them to be independent, self-managing artists.

W: I think one of the things we do for artists is when they are chosen by us, they know we feel they are exceptional, which gives them a sense of confidence. We are do nurture them, showing them how they can improve their way of dealing with concert travel, or appreciating the people presenting their concerts, how to make interesting and appealing programs. They have to be ready to play when an opportunity comes up unexpectedly. We also have an educational program through which the artists learn how to talk to students or to talk to audiences. We were the first to create short educational “outreach” activities.

So, what would you say is the mission and the present role of YCA?

W: Our first goal, the very first thing, is to maintain the extraordinary caliber of our artists. We often do better than Competitions because ours is not a competition; we don’t choose one pianist compared to another pianist. For example in our 2009 Auditions we had four violin winners. Each one is completely different. YCA is telling them: you are special, you have something to say. In a way, I think that is the most important thing we do. Then we give them at least three years of career management and of course the all-important New York and Washington debut concerts.

H: Yes, let’s say we are not as powerful as we used to be outside of the music world. But we still do just as much in terms of giving them training, support and help. Because it is rare for a young musician to know how to manage themselves, and their own career. Even when artists go on to commercial management, they still have to be responsible for taking care of their own affairs. Even if you are very successful, few managements will actually take care of everything for you. They will book lots of concerts, but you need to be able to manage your own time, to know how to say “yes,” how to say “no.” So, we try to give the artists all those skills and that is what we keep doing, teaching them how to become a professional.
 I think even the great teachers at the important music conservatories don’t always have that ability. They are not managers; they don’t have experience teaching young artists how to deal with a contract, visas, taxes, the law and different kinds of agreements. That if you are called, you have to return the call right away, and respond if someone asks you about your program repertoire or something in your biography. That is the business part, but not all artists are good at doing these things naturally, so they learn with us.

Recently YCA has held auditions abroad. Why does a US organization extend its activities in that direction?

W: One of our alumni, the pianist Joel Shapiro, became a professor in Leipzig, at the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdi Hochschule for Musik. At that time, West and East Germany had only been re-unified for a couple of years, and the activities and prestige of the historic, legendary conservatory in Leipzig – which Mendelssohn had been the Director of, and where Grieg had studied, and Schumann had taught, needed to be revitalized. He was also chosen to be the Pro-Rektor – the artistic director of Hochschule. He decided that the Hochschule would host International Young Concert Artists auditions there, because Leipzig was quite accessible for European and Eastern European countries. It gave poor young artists the chance to be heard live, rather than by sending a CD to New York. This also brought many young people to Leipzig, and made people aware that interesting things were happening there.
 Then another YCA alumnus, a French pianist, Marc Laforet, decided to do the same thing in Paris, so for a while we alternated between auditions in Leipzig and auditions in Paris. This was all initiated by our wonderful alumni, who wanted to help the organization, to enrich it with musicians from Europe, Russia and the Eastern countries, and to spread the word about it.

For four years there has also been a YCA Festival held every year at the Chanel Tower’s Nexus Hall in Tokyo. Was this also initiated by another alumni?

W: Our Tokyo Festival came about in a different way: the chairman of our Board of Directors, Peter Marino, is the architect of the Chanel Tower. The President of Chanel is Japan, Richard Collasse, is also a music lover. So they decided that this was the chance for Young Concert Artists to do something special in this beautiful building here in Japan. Chanel decided most generously to sponsor the Festival! It is quite unusual for a major international fashion house to sponsor a classical music festival, especially with artists who are not yet famous! But they created the possibility for this Festival and it has been such a success! Now we have begun to receive support from the international and the Japanese community.
 We were very fortunate from the first year to be awarded grants from the US Embassy in Japan. They appreciate that a US organization is doing something special in Japan in which Japanese and American artists and others from all over the world perform together and doing something together, and that a French company in Japan is working with an American organization to create an international festival.

H: It has been a sort of organic outgrowth, these international activities by people involved with Young Concert Artists wanting to bring YCA to another part of the world. All of these initiatives were originally the efforts of people outside of the YCA office. We can’t start something unless there is someone locally based who says, “I have an idea for a great project, and that is ...” Then we can say, “It sounds great! If you want to start it, we’ll help you!” So, that’s how it happened. That’s the way the international auditions happened, how the Festival in Tokyo happened. I wonder who will be next to help…(laughs).
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