Musica Viva has announced a new National Chamber Music Championship for secondary school student groups that starts in 2020 and complements the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition (MICMC), which the same organisation took over as presenter in 2018. While the latter competition is for established international groups, this new Championship is intended for school-age musicians and singers.
It is to be trialled in 2020 with a view to running annually, except in the years when MICMC comes around, which is every four years). How the National Chamber Music Championship works is that students can form their own group of between three and eight members and submit a video recording to be in contention. They need not have any prior background in classical music and can use any combination of acoustic instruments. Entries are due between 29 January and 21 May, with a weekend of semi-finals and finals to be held in Melbourne in 5-6 September.
So Musica Viva has rapidly become a major player in the competition space, and it hopes that by doing so more young people will be encouraged to play classical music.
“Our Championship is about getting everybody involved – it’s a real grass-roots initiative,” says Wilma Smith, Musica Viva’s Artistic Director of Competitions. “Any instrumentalist or singer at any technical level can get together with other kids playing at a similar level, choose some repertoire they can manage and enter.”
Prizes of $5,000, $4,000 and $2,500 have been announced for first, second and third places, and these says Smith are designed to reward musicians at a range of achievement levels.
“While it’s true that the advanced elite groups might be the ones that make it to the Melbourne semi-finals and finals weekend next September, there will be other category prizes for groups that don’t get there, and we’ve made sure that at least six states or territories will be represented at the semi-finals in Melbourne.”
“Chamber music is fun and doable at any level and we hope that teachers and students all over the country will take us up on this invitation.”
Kids love to experiment, so the definition of ‘classical’ in this Championship is being kept deliberately broad, only excluding rock, jazz or other obviously non-classical genres.
“The main rules are that groups contain three to eight people, there is just one person per part, there is no conductor, and everybody must be at secondary school or equivalent (e.g. home-school). Any instrument combination is fine, even voice,” says Smith.
By encouraging young people to succeed, the National Chamber Music Championship fills a niche that has remained conspicuously missing in this country.
“The Championship will be nothing like MICMC (Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition) or indeed QICMC (Queensland International Chamber Music Competition),” says Smith.
To note is that the finals weekend will also incorporate a teacher conference. This, she says, will offer music teachers “the opportunity to come together, socialise and build connections, listen to and watch expert colleagues in the field in action, get ideas about how to develop their own practices, and of course attend the semi-finals and finals of the Championship”.
Meanwhile, excitement is building for the next Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition meanwhile in 2022. Says Smith: “MICMC is all about attracting the very best young ensembles in the world to Melbourne to compete for a prize which will set the top group or groups on their way to an international career in chamber music. They are the cream of the crop internationally and as with any international competition, it’s fantastically exciting to have a collection of elite ensembles together in one place.”