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Benjamin Woodroffe WFIMC

Benjamin Woodroffe

With more competitions on offer than ever before Benjamin Woodroffe, CEO of the World Federation of International Music Competitions (WFIMC), asks his board members how their events are helping the talent of tomorrow progress today.

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Founded in 1957, the World Federation of International Music Competitions (WFIMC) is the governing body committed to setting the highest standards of artistic excellence for competitions across the globe. Today, WFIMC promotes and endorses over 115 member competitions. From Auckland to Zagreb, the members of the federation present competitions in multiple disciplines including piano, strings, voice, winds, percussion, composition, conducting, chamber music and jazz. The very best music competitions provide a platform for young musicians to present themselves to the world.

Comprised of executive directors of member competitions, the seven -strong WFIMC board brings strong knowledge and experience to the WFIMC headquarters in Geneva. Their points of view are invaluable as you will read below. Competitions play a vital role for the future of music. Competitions bring physical and online audiences together to discover and celebrate laureates. And competitions nurture raw talent towards life as a performing artist.’ – Benjamin Woodroffe, secretary general, World Federation of International Music Competitions. 

The WFIMC board

The WFIMC board


Competitions play an essential role in the international music landscape: more than discovering the artists of tomorrow and preparing these artists for a deserving career, competitions introduce us to the musical world of the future. In Geneva, we look after our young candidates before, during and after the competition: whether winners or losers, the young artists gain so much from taking part. At the Geneva International Music Competition, we also work for the music of tomorrow: by including composition as a principal discipline, we are proud to support a living, breathing classical music – open to new ideas and to new ears – Didier Schnorhk, president WFIMC | secretary general, Geneva International Music Competition.

The Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition represents excellence in all its forms, from performance through to event management. This ethos represents that of Mirjam Helin’s personal philosophy – a commitment to integrity in all matters. The Helin Competition delivers a clean and equal slate for all competitors on which to perform. Each and every capable singer has the opportunity to take part without the restriction of financial constraints such as entrance, accommodation or travel fees which are covered by the competition. Each singer is provided the opportunity to prepare their own programme of repertoire to highlight their artistic talent in the best light. Performances are broadcast online with accompanying biographic material. An added initiative of the Helin Competition is the presentation of the “Singer’s Studio” (last presented by Deborah Voigt) which provides all candidates with invaluable professional advice. The driving mantra of the Helin Competition is clear – Prima! – Marja-Leena Pétas-Arjava vice president, WFIMC |  executive director, Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition.

The UNISA International Piano Competition is unique. Firstly, it is the only WFIMC member competition on the African continent. This is important to show that Africa has a strong voice in international music competitions. Secondly, the UNISA International Piano Competition became the first competition within the WFIMC to include a jazz stream parallel to the classical piano competition. Our classical piano competition has been in existence for 34 years and has established a level of prestige and quality that had to be reflected in the new jazz element. Being the first competition within the WFIMC to include jazz, we felt it vitally important to set a benchmark for jazz upon which other competitions could develop. An interesting finding from the recent 2016 competition was that the standard of performance of the jazz candidates was exceptionally high. This could be due to the fact that many of the jazz finalists were accomplished classical musicians. Accordingly, they brought a very high level of technical ability, musicality and style to their jazz performances. This shows that non classical categories can comfortably coexist, thereby allowing for the expansion and development of the WFIMC into other disciplines – Karendra Devroop, director, UNISA International Music Competitions

The International Franz Liszt Piano Competition believes that competitions should bridge the gap between the classroom and the stage. For young musicians it is extremely important that they get opportunities to learn on the job. That is why the Liszt Competition offers its prize winners an extensive career development programme for three years following the competition. As well as over 300 concerts in 30 countries, we offer them professional coaching (eg media and stage presence training), promotional tools (website, press kit, recordings) and continuous mentorship. Learning how to cope with the challenges of being a touring musician can be tough; travelling around the globe, performing with  jet lag, handling multiple visa applications at a time, juggling different programmes and learning new repertoire while on the road are all things that you can’t learn from a textbook – Rob Hilberink, director, International Franz Liszt Piano Competition.

At Ferruccio Busoni Piano Competition we think it is a misunderstanding that competitions are connected with the concept of a star system. More than merely looking for winners, today’s competitions represent the idea of excellence and provide a platform where different generations of candidates, jury members and worldwide audiences are looking for an ever-evolving understanding of music – Peter Paul Kainraith, artistic director, Ferruccio Busoni Piano Competition.

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is focussed on nurturing and launching the careers of its winners, providing them with the right tools and opportunities for success. We do this primarily in two ways: 1. Three years of commission-free career management, including concert bookings in the US for the three medallists, plus internationally for the gold medallist. As part of this programme, we also deliver publicity services (media training, media kit materials, websites), networking and mentorship opportunities, and commercial recordings by harmonia mundi USA; 2. Widespread exposure from media coverage, webcasts, documentaries, radio broadcasts, and more to come! We webcast all performances live and on-demand to a large international audience and then produce a full-length documentary for airing in the US on PBS and beyond to introduce the world to our laureates – Jacques Marquis, president and CEO, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

The Honens Competition is unique in openly stating its artistic philosophy. It searches for an imaginative and informed artist that it calls the ‘Complete Pianist’ – a 21st century musician for 21st century audiences.  This is a musician who is equally at home as a solo recitalist as he/she is in chamber music, as soloist with orchestra and as a communicator. Honens invites only 10 pianists to Calgary as semi-finalists and awards a single laureate prize of CAD100,000 (€67,900) cash and an artistic and career development programme valued at a half million dollars – the largest prize of its kind. By presenting this award to a single laureate, the competition has intensified its efforts in delivering a transformative experience to a young artist with the goal of launching meaningful career. The Honens Prize Laureate’s Artist Development Programme includes worldwide general management by the competition for three years; debut recitals in career-building markets that have previously included Berlin, London, Munich, New York, Paris and Toronto; residencies at The Banff Centre to develop repertory and prepare for touring projects; a recording on the Hyperion label; and coaching and mentorship opportunities with established touring artists. All competition semi-finalists are invited to meet with a highly respected, actively touring pianist who acts as mentor-in-residence during the final week of the competition. Honens publicists in Toronto, New York, London and Cologne support recital debuts at Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, Berlin’s Konzerthaus and with the orchestras including the Toronto Symphony and London Philharmonic: all partnerships that Honens has spent time developing over more than 20 years. Finally, the Honens record label continues the competition’s support to its laureates years after pianists have won the competition – Stephen McHolm, artistic director, Honens Piano Competition.


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