The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Susan Wadsworth
Susan Wadsworth

Young Concert Artists (YCA)
Young Concert Artists
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 
The fate of aspiring young musicians has long been one to endure some 20 years of difficult and competitive training to graduate from a music conservatory, with no assurance that they will be able to pursue their dream, a career as a professional musician. The American non-profit organization Young Concert Artists (YCA) was established in 1961 with the purpose of providing many career opportunities for young musicians who are chosen through auditions each year. The criteria do not depend on credentials or experience, but only those with exceptional talent and accomplishment. YCA has won a strong reputation among discerning audiences and professionals of the international classical music world for selecting superb young musicians and launching them on important careers. Among the “graduates” of the YCA program are many well-known artists today, giving validity to the YCA approach. Among the YCA “Alumni” are numerous Japanese musicians whose careers were aided by the YCA program in their early years in the 1960s and ’70s such as the violist Nobuko Imai, the cellist Ko Iwasaki the violinists Yayoi Toda and Anne Akiko Meyers, and the Tokyo String Quartet, while the younger YCA generation includes International Tchaikovsky Violin Competition winner, Mayuko Kamio. Although the presence of YCA is just as important today for young artists who have been through their formal training and are about to enter “the real world”, the conditions of the music world are changing rapidly. On the occasion of their stay in Japan for the YCA Tokyo Festival held in June at the CHANEL tower in Ginza, we spoke to YCA Founder Susan Wadsworth and Associate Director Mark Hayman about the current conditions for young musicians and the unique role the organization has played.
(Interview: Kazumi Minoguchi)

Ms. Wadsworth, we are told that you founded YCA because you knew wonderfully talented musicians who just had no opportunities to perform and that prompted you to try to create opportunities for such musicians to play before an audience, with the conviction that it would surely lead to new career opportunities and success. Young Concert Artists will celebrate its 50th anniversary soon in 2011. Could you please tell us how its role has been changing over the years?

Susan Wadsworth: The way the music world has changed is very, very violent. For example, during the first ten years, if an artist was exceptional, like Richard Goode, I could go to major managements, and say, “This is someone that you should take on. Here is the review, here is the way he plays, this is a great artist you should add to your management,” and they would. I could invite managements to hear someone, and if they liked them, they signed them on. I could call conductors, and say that I would like them to listen to an artist, and they would come. Today that is completely impossible.
 When Mayuko Kamio was on our roster and was getting rave reviews in the New York Times and the Washington Post, I called the administration at the New York Philharmonic. Amazingly, they arrange for their conductor, Lorin Maazel, to hear her. I do not even try to do this very often, because it is so difficult. Mayuko played for him, and he listened to the entire concerto, and when she finished, he said, “She is a phenomenon. I have never heard that music played so wonderfully. Please give me her schedule!” So I did. And I followed up. But there was no response.
 I realized when I looked at the schedule of the New York Philharmonic the next season, a young Asian girl violinist I hadn’t heard of was playing with the orchestra. There are now so many young Asian girl violinists!
 Just mention any category, and there are many outstanding young artists on the same instrument, and the major orchestras can choose from all the famous people, and only rarely engage someone who is absolutely new. They can’t be adventurous; they have to be sure they are selling tickets.
 Managers also just don’t really want to add artists to their rosters, because they have to get concerts for the artists they are already committed to. They have superstars, and have people not so well known, whom they believe in, and a few young people, but they have to work extra hard to promote them. Some managers in the old days believed in artists and created stories to publicize them, and the press was interested. Now everyone is saturated with information and newspapers rarely do “human interest” stories, which were a marvelous way of letting the public know about an artist – famous or new.

Mark Hayman: Everyone still tries to create this kind of publicity and, like everything in the world today, what the publicity people generate is just a thousand times more than it used to be. People are overwhelmed by the millions of bits of information around them. And although they still try to make big stories out of people, it is hard for anyone to stand out in the pack with so much information around today.

Even in such a stagnant situation, competitions and auditions continue providing the world of music with new, young musicians.

W: There are now in the United States alone, hundreds of competitions for young musicians. I encourage our artists to take part in these competitions, not necessarily because it can launch a career–because it doesn’t really help that way at all–but because winning a prize brings them a few thousand dollars, which is nice, and gives them experience. Moving their career forward is what we have to do. We use all the information to create publicity materials–their prizes, their reviews– to help them be engaged in performances. The work we do for our young artists is the same as what the commercial managements do, but we do it for free, and we raise the money to support our administrative costs and can spend the time without worrying about supporting our work from artists’ commissions. Something that is changing now is that people stay with us longer, because it is harder to get their careers started. When they do leave us, if they still don’t have management, they have established themselves in some way. They are in demand because people know how good they are. Sometimes they are better off working with their own contacts that they have built up through the engagements they got through Young Concert Artists. Musicians are more entrepreneurial, often starting their own music festivals.
| 1 | 2 | 3 |