The piano has long been known as a musical instrument and a scientific discipline within the field of music that attracts the most interest and enrollment. Its international appeal and accessibility have become increasingly important in the process of cultural exchange and global integration. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are numerous piano competitions held in various locations nowadays, ranging from local to national and international levels. These competitions come in diverse formats (offline, online), themes, age groups, and participants, and they are often organized by music educational institutions, businesses, and social organizations.
The annual Piano Competition organized by the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music is a significant and prestigious artistic event that attracts a large number of participants at different levels. It has become a hallmark of the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music, renowned for its high professionalism and appeal to the public and music enthusiasts.
According to the organizing committee, the competition aims to promote the development of professional piano study and performance, expand a healthy and beneficial music environment for young people, and at the same time, seek and discover young musical talents in order to provide necessary support and nurture their development, contributing to the service of the community and society.
Based on our research, this year's piano competition is open to two groups: professional and amateur participants of all nationalities and age groups. There are specific regulations regarding the repertoire, age requirements for each group, and the competition will take place from July 6th, 2023, to July 9th, 2023.
In a conversation with Hoang Ngoc Long, PhD the Head of the organizing committee and Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music, he mentioned that organizing this year's Piano Competition comes with certain advantages and challenges. The advantages lie in the committee's ability to invite highly skilled jury members from prestigious music institutions in countries with well-developed classical music scenes such as France, South Korea, and Malaysia, which enhances the competition's professional aspects. The three main sponsors, Viet Thuong Music, Emmaus Group with its subsidiary company MIBS, and Vietjet Air, have been accompanying the competition for many years. Their long-term commitment and support demonstrate the vitality and success of the competition, along with the trust they have in the organizing institution. These advantages contribute to the continuation of the competition at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music this year. However, on the other hand, due to the prolonged impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the general economic difficulties faced by both the global and Vietnamese economy, there are certain challenges. Consequently, the ability to attract new sponsors for the competition has been somewhat limited, and the number of participants from other countries has also decreased to some extent, as they have to independently bear expenses such as transportation and accommodation.
From a management perspective, Hoang Ngoc Long, PhD further added: "The competition attracts the attention of parents and young individuals who aspire to study at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music. Through this competition, they will have their skills and musical abilities assessed and evaluated, helping them to determine the right path for their musical talents. Especially, prize-winning participants will have direct admission into the Conservatory based on their age and level of proficiency at the intermediate and university levels, as stipulated by the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music."
According to Le Ho Hai, PhD Vice Head of the Piano Department at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music and Chairman of the Jury of the Piano Competition 2023 (Professional Group), any contestant participating in the competition will experience the values of artistic labor. Contestants will overcome shortcomings, have a clearer understanding of their musical learning goals, and grow more mature. The competition provides an opportunity for contestants to enhance their existing skills and learn new performance techniques. The Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music is known as one of the leading music training institutions in Vietnam, so contestants have the chance to perform in a concert hall with the standard of sound acoustics, playing on a Steinway & Sons D – 274 grand piano, the world standard, in front of knowledgeable audiences and professional judges from both domestic and international backgrounds. In addition, contestants can interact and learn from each other as well as receive feedback and suggestions from experts. These comprehensive experiences cannot be found in regular class sessions or individual practice.
In addition to the regulations regarding the foundational academic program in Round 1 of the Professional Group in Groups A, B, and C, the new aspect of this year's competition in Round 2 (Final Round) in Group B is that the repertoire expands from works by Romantic era composers to those of the 20th century. The program for Group C in Round 2 is more flexible and allows for personal selection. This allows contestants to showcase their strengths in their choice of repertoire. In this regard, Mr. Le Ho Hai, who has been involved with the competition for many years as the Chairman of the Jury, shared the criteria for selecting prize-winning contestants and the direction for winners in the professional group, stating: "The evaluation criteria vary depending on the specific goals of each competition. In the Piano Competition of Ho Chi Minh City in 2023, in the professional group, the evaluation criteria for contestants are not only focused on technical performance, but also on their understanding of the historical context, musical style of the composer, the structure of the piece, and the content of the composition. In other words, it requires a comprehensive approach to the technical and artistic aspects of interpreting the piece. Additionally, it involves the ability of the contestants to communicate with the Jury and the audience through their thinking, emotions, aesthetic sense, musical sensitivity, and performance style."
According to Le Ho Hai, PhD the success of prize-winning contestants represents a preliminary recognition on their artistic path and also provides valuable experience in overcoming challenges on stage. These achievements open up many study opportunities both domestically and internationally, drawing attention from the professional community and performance organizers. Young people should participate in larger competitions and experience artistic environments that are more diverse, as piano is an immensely broad musical art form".
In addition to the A, B, C categories in the professional group, there are also A, B, C, D categories for the non-professional group (Amateur). This creates opportunities for classical piano enthusiasts to participate in the competition and test their own abilities. Nguyen Thuy Yen, MA Vice Head of the Piano Department at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music and Chairwoman of the Jury (Non-Professional Group), believes that in the field of art education in general, and piano education in particular, performance is crucial. From performing within a small group to larger-scale performances, all provide valuable experiences for learners, helping them grow in their piano learning and practice. In the role of a judge, she recognizes that a contestant who can stand on stage and fully perform their competition piece is a significant achievement to be cherished.
According to Nguyen Thuy Yen, MA the regulations, rules, criteria for judging, and selection of prize-winning contestants in the non-professional category are not significantly different from the professional category. In this year's competition, the older age group will have a program of free-choice performances. This will provide an opportunity for contestants to showcase their diverse performing styles. As a result, the audience will also have the chance to enjoy a variety of performances in terms of repertoire and musical colors. The competition values contestants who can demonstrate an understanding of the style of the composer and the composition, possess good technical skills, and have a deep appreciation for music. The purpose and significance of the competition are to promote the growth of piano learning and performance, discover young talents, and continue to nurture and train them to enhance their abilities, fostering musical souls that contribute to the community and society.
- Professor Jérome Granjon - Teaching at the Paris Conservatory & National Conservatory of Lyon - France.
- Professor Chong Lim (Malaysia) - Former judge of the Chopin ASEAN competition, previously taught at the University of Malaya (Malaysia) and NAFA (Singapore).
- Professor Park Jee Won (South Korea) - Head of the Postgraduate Program at Sang Myung University.
- Eva Joo, PhD - Teaching in the Postgraduate Program at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music.
- Associate Professor, PhD Nguyen Huy Phuong - Former Deputy Head of the Piano Department, Deputy Director of the Vietnam National Academy of Music, Chairman of the Council of the Vietnam National Academy of Music.
- Pham Trong Chuong, MA - Former Head of the Piano Department at the Hanoi College of Art.
- Diamond Sponsor - Viet Thuong Music. Cash sponsor.
- Gold Sponsor - Emmaus group, represented by MIBS, cash sponsor.
- Silver Sponsor - Vietjet Air. Sponsorship of all travel expenses for domestic and international judges and guests.