Online orchestra competition fails to find a winner

An online talent search for an unknown star has ended prematurely after the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) failed to find a winner for its recent competition.

The orchestra launched the Concerto Competition in February, asking aspiring young musicians to post their performances on YouTube to win $10,000 and play with the orchestra at two concerts.

The finals, which took place on Monday and saw four finalist musicians play live for the competition’s judges, ended in disappointment for everyone involved as none of the entrants were deemed good enough to take home the prize.

Violinist William Hagen, pianists Benjamin Hopkins and Manon Hutton-DeWys, and cellist Angela Park hoped to win the money and perform solos under music director Manfred Honeck with the PSO at two concerts later this year. The jury of conductors, musicians and staff however did not think any of the players were of the sufficient caliber to win the competition.

“We were very pleased with the four finalists. But we always maintained the right not to pick a winner,” explained Robert Moir, senior vice-president of artistic planning and audience engagement at the orchestra.

“The PSO was the first major American orchestra to hold an online concerto competition to find a soloist to perform with the orchestra … It was an interesting experience for us. It was a very difficult decision not to choose a winner.”

Following the disappointing finale, the orchestra plan to alter their approach and run a similar contest again soon.

The four finalists were selected after a public YouTube vote in April of the final eight contenders. The competition received a shortlist of 104 eligible videos.

While it may not have ended in the manner that was expected, Mr Moir said the competition did find some “wonderful musicians” and the judges have encouraged them to continue in their efforts.

“Our goal was to discover an unknown talent performing at the level of soloists with the Pittsburgh Symphony. We did not find that,” he added.

The PSO stressed that it isn’t uncommon for these types of contests to end without a worthy winner. Last year, the International Tchaikovsky Violin Competition finished without crowning a champion leaving its entrants empty-handed.

Have you ever had problems finding the right people to play music with? What do you think of the PSO’s decision to not select a winner? Were they too harsh on the finalists?

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