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BBC Young Musician Competition


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#46 minimum

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:26

I missed the programme but just read about the piano player who started at age 6 and passed grade 8 at 8 years old. This is amazing but I can't help wondering how this was achieved. Obviously lots of hard work and I genuinely feel happy for him that it paid off, but how on earth can others compete with this. Does anybody know what sort of background and routine this player comes from.
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#47 jonathanquinn

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 19:29

QUOTE(flobiano @ Apr 13 2012, 07:49 PM) View Post

Anyone else watching this? No girls/ women either competing in or judging the piano semi final. I find that a bit odd to be honest. unsure.gif

Interestingly over the other 4 categories it is split exactly 50:50 between girls and boys.


The adjudicators for the strings and woodwind categories (Rosie Biss, Lesley Hatfield, Emma Johnson, and Juliette Bausor) are all women, which I find fairly unremarkable. We could equally have had, say, Boris Garlitsky, Pieter Schoeman, John Anderson, and Michael Collins, which I would have found similarly unremarkable. When we are looking at panels of two category specialists it would be unreasonable to expect to balance, say, Vasko Vassilev with Alina Ibragimova.

It might be more interesting to ask why out of 14 judges (7 men and 7 women) all 14 are white. Looking at the ethnic breakdown of the UK (about 8 percent non-white) we might have expect to see at least one black or Asian member of the judging panel. On the other hand, we of course would not expect to see any black or Asian judges, as the senior ranks of the British music world are almost uniformly white, exceptions such as Sir Willard White, Wayne Marshall, and Chi-chi Nwanoku being few and far between. Looking at the competitors, 4 or 5 out of 25 appear to have east Asian origins, which is hugely disproportionate considering that these ethnic groups make up less than 1 percent of the population of the UK. One competitor appears to have some sort of black heritage, which statistically is about right. With nearly 4 percent of people in the UK being of south Asian ethnicity we ought perhaps to be surprised that there is no competitor representing these ethnic groups.

Of course, I am well aware that the problem is not that the BBC has shown any prejudice in favour of or against any particular ethnic group, but that musical achievement in this country is heavily biased towards white and east Asian ethnicities. In fact, a similar pattern is replicated even in the breakdown of concert audiences. Here in London, a city with a population that is nearly one-quarter black and south Asian, I am able to go to sell-out performances at the Royal Opera House and at all of the main concert halls and count the number of black and south Asian people in single figures, if any. Does this trend strike anybody else as worrying? As a white Londoner I feel a considerable unease when I am able to count as remarkable the fact that I once sat behind two black people at the London Coliseum.
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#48 jonathanquinn

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 19:39

QUOTE(fsharpminor @ Feb 28 2012, 10:13 AM) View Post

I hope this year we get plenty of music instead of half the programme on the biographies of the candidates


On the contrary, I find biographical details fascinating. I am thoroughly bored of those dreadful programme notes that simply list the concert halls and music festivals at which a musician has performed, the orchestras and conductors with whom he or she has performed, recordings he or she has made, etc. I think it is really interesting when one finds out something about a musician's real life. I find it so much more interesting when a musician shares a larger part of his or her life with the public (e.g. Stephen Hough). I don't want to be short-changed on the music, but understanding where somebody is coming from just enhances my enjoyment of it.
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#49 Arundodonuts

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 19:41

QUOTE(jonathanquinn @ Apr 17 2012, 08:29 PM) View Post

Looking at the competitors, 4 or 5 out of 25 appear to have east Asian origins, which is hugely disproportionate considering that these ethnic groups make up less than 1 percent of the population of the UK.

They do however make up far more than 1% of the students at UK music schools and conservatoires.
QUOTE

Of course, I am well aware that the problem is not that the BBC has shown any prejudice in favour of or against any particular ethnic group, but that musical achievement in this country is heavily biased towards white and east Asian ethnicities. In fact, a similar pattern is replicated even in the breakdown of concert audiences. Here in London, a city with a population that is nearly one-quarter black and south Asian, I am able to go to sell-out performances at the Royal Opera House and at all of the main concert halls and count the number of black and south Asian people in single figures, if any.

Is that bias by the classical music establishment or lack of interest by the ethnic groups you mention?
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#50 Chris H

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 20:04

I live in an area with a very high proportion of white people, but have found that when I go to jazz concerts there is usually quite a large number of black people in the audience.
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#51 jonathanquinn

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 22:18

QUOTE(Arundodonuts @ Apr 17 2012, 08:41 PM) View Post

QUOTE(jonathanquinn @ Apr 17 2012, 08:29 PM) View Post

Looking at the competitors, 4 or 5 out of 25 appear to have east Asian origins, which is hugely disproportionate considering that these ethnic groups make up less than 1 percent of the population of the UK.

They do however make up far more than 1% of the students at UK music schools and conservatoires.


I think that you misunderstand me. Apologies if I did not make my point clearly enough. I am well aware that people of east Asian background make up a significant proportion of successful musicians in the UK. Hence my lack of surprise that this ethnic group is represented about 20 times more strongly in this music competition than they are represented in the population as a whole. From this I conclude that a very large proportion of children of east Asian parents in the UK are able to pursue the study of a musical instrument compared with a smaller proportion of the children of the majority white ethnic group. The reasons for this are probably both cultural and economic: a higher proportion of white parents either have no interest in promoting an interest in classical music or lack the resources to do so. Of course, this argument is always going to be hard to make: it sounds like I am saying the east Asians in the UK ought to be doing less well. I am, of course, merely asking why it is that east Asians are doing so much better than other ethnic groups, which is quite another question. What would be really useful would be to know more about the backgrounds of successful white musicians. Certainly when I was involved in youth music I knew a disproportionately large number of young musicians educated at schools such as Eton, Winchester, Westminster, Sherborne, Bradfield, Dulwich, the King's School Canterbury, Tonbridge, and St Paul's and City of London boys' and girls' schools. Even among state schools a handful such as Camden School for Girls, Aske's, Newstead Wood, and St Olave's are heavily represented.

QUOTE(Arundodonuts @ Apr 17 2012, 08:41 PM) View Post

QUOTE(jonathanquinn @ Apr 17 2012, 08:29 PM) View Post

Of course, I am well aware that the problem is not that the BBC has shown any prejudice in favour of or against any particular ethnic group, but that musical achievement in this country is heavily biased towards white and east Asian ethnicities. In fact, a similar pattern is replicated even in the breakdown of concert audiences. Here in London, a city with a population that is nearly one-quarter black and south Asian, I am able to go to sell-out performances at the Royal Opera House and at all of the main concert halls and count the number of black and south Asian people in single figures, if any.

Is that bias by the classical music establishment or lack of interest by the ethnic groups you mention?


Well, it seems to me to be difficult to separate the two. I don't suppose that an actual racist ideology is widespread in the classical music world, although we have all heard about Sir Willard White's experiences singing Wotan and Prince Gremin. Perhaps the lack of representation of black and south Asian people in classical music is due to a lack of interest, but why is there such a lack of interest? Could it be precisely because of that lack of representation? The east Asian comparison is useful. If east Asians have developed such an interest in western classical music then why not black and south Asian people? Black people, in particular, have a musical culture of their own which is much more closely related to western classical music than is the indigenous music of east Asia. As somebody brought up on western classical music Louis Armstrong or Bob Marley are very much less foreign to me (in fact, not foreign at all) than have been my infrequent forays into Chinese music. Black and south Asian cultures have also, through European colonialism, had much more experience of contact with western culture, which would also seem to make it more likely that people of these ethnic origins would take more of an interest in western classical music. Perhaps I suffer from white guilt, but I do, as I say, feel a certain unease that were I to tell the people who live next door to me that last night I had heard Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin performing works by Mozart and Bruckner at the Royal Festival Hall I think it's a safe bet that they would have very little idea at all what I was talking about. Perhaps there is something unpleasantly colonialist in my desire that they ought to be able to share in the wonders of the European culture among which they live.
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#52 Guest: VH2_*

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 06:25

QUOTE(Chris H @ Apr 17 2012, 10:04 PM) View Post

I live in an area with a very high proportion of white people, but have found that when I go to jazz concerts there is usually quite a large number of black people in the audience.

I have been to reggae concerts in Brixton (wearing earplugs, as it is so loud) where I have been the only white person.

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#53 Arundodonuts

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 10:16

QUOTE(jonathanquinn @ Apr 17 2012, 11:18 PM) View Post

Perhaps I suffer from white guilt, but I do, as I say, feel a certain unease that were I to tell the people who live next door to me that last night I had heard Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin performing works by Mozart and Bruckner at the Royal Festival Hall I think it's a safe bet that they would have very little idea at all what I was talking about.

I'm sure they could regale you with tales of their pastimes which would leave you non-plussed. We all have different interests, some are culturally based, some by nuture and some simply because the individual stumbled on something they thought might be interesting.

It isn't just music. All the interests I have or have had appear to be dominated (in the UK anyway) by white Caucasians - in most cases male white Caucasians.

As for Western music in China for example, "Western" classical music goes back to the late 19th early 20th century in Shanghai (due to international influences there). It was effectively banned under the communists for who tradition was everything. Following the death of Mao it became possible to pursue Western classical music again and given the size of the population it's unsurprising that they produce so many people interested in it. I recall recently hearing a figure of 20 million music students mentioned.

Of course whichever way you look at it, it is undeniable that the majority of the classical music audience is "intelligent, middle class", whatever the colour of their skins or ethnic background.
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#54 jonathanquinn

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 11:40

QUOTE(Arundodonuts @ Apr 18 2012, 11:16 AM) View Post

Of course whichever way you look at it, it is undeniable that the majority of the classical music audience is "intelligent, middle class", whatever the colour of their skins or ethnic background.


I think that one of my old tutors used to say "class always trumps race", although it may have been the other way round! But I suspect that to a certain extent class does trump race in this respect and the under-representation of certain ethnic groups in certain cultural activities probably has a lot to do with social marginalisation rather than racism. I doubt whether many of the white residents of my particular corner of southeast London would ever have heard a Bruckner symphony either. I suspect it's the same with jazz and other kinds of music in which black people have traditionally been highly represented: some of my favourite singers, such as Louis Armstrong and Bobby Short, are black, but I don't have the impression that they enjoy much popularity among the people round here, judging from the music I have blaring out of their cars and shops and gyms.
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#55 Misterioso

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 14:51

QUOTE(jonathanquinn @ Apr 17 2012, 08:39 PM) View Post

QUOTE(fsharpminor @ Feb 28 2012, 10:13 AM) View Post

I hope this year we get plenty of music instead of half the programme on the biographies of the candidates


On the contrary, I find biographical details fascinating. I am thoroughly bored of those dreadful programme notes that simply list the concert halls and music festivals at which a musician has performed, the orchestras and conductors with whom he or she has performed, recordings he or she has made, etc. I think it is really interesting when one finds out something about a musician's real life. I find it so much more interesting when a musician shares a larger part of his or her life with the public (e.g. Stephen Hough). I don't want to be short-changed on the music, but understanding where somebody is coming from just enhances my enjoyment of it.

I completely agree. Not only do you learn where the competitors are coming from, but what they have put into it to get where they are, what they feel about the competition and why they are taking part, and sometimes what they have had to give up to persue music.
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#56 balu114

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 15:15

As a South Asian myself, I think the reason for lack of many South Asians in the Western Classical music scene is mainly due to cultural difference rather than racial bias.

Firstly, Western Classical music has not been embraced in South Asia as it has been in East Asia. The reason for this is that South Asia has it's own sophisticated Classical musical traditions and they all remain popular. Although the western classical instruments have been adopted, western classical music itself has not been adopted in a big way.

Secondly, parents of South Asian origin emphasise more on academic achievement than musical education. Sadly, many (including my parents!) consider musical education as unnecessary or even elitist! Being a musician is not considered a proper job sad.gif. When I was 10, I asked my mum if I could learn a musical instrument, she asked "For what?"!!

The percentage of South Asian students who get into Oxbridge and Medical schools has been consistently higher than the demographic percentage. In US, a good proportion of the Spelling Bee winners in the last decade were South Asians. This is due to the emphasis on academic education rather than music, sports or arts.
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#57 DiscoPants

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 19:55

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#58 Robodoc

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 21:59

QUOTE(minimum @ Apr 17 2012, 12:26 PM) View Post

I missed the programme but just read about the piano player who started at age 6 and passed grade 8 at 8 years old. This is amazing but I can't help wondering how this was achieved. Obviously lots of hard work and I genuinely feel happy for him that it paid off, but how on earth can others compete with this. Does anybody know what sort of background and routine this player comes from.

He reached grade 8 very quickly because he a) has natural aptitude, b) has had good teachers, c) is self-driven, d) is supported, e) has time to practice (and makes even more time) and f) uses that time effectively. Most importantly, he loves what he does. How can anyone compete with this? You can't, that's why he won.
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#59 sunil

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 05:28

There are South Asians in Classical music field (also a MIA in main stream, but that's different story) but not famous. Cardiff singer of the world competitor Meeta Raval was SE Asian origin.

QUOTE(balu114 @ Apr 18 2012, 04:15 PM) View Post

As a South Asian myself, I think the reason for lack of many South Asians in the Western Classical music scene is mainly due to cultural difference rather than racial bias.



I heard another competitor also had similar story. Whilst researching about other students in daughters' class of next school, many of them has achieved Grade 8 (and above) standard between 18 months to 3 years.

QUOTE(minimum @ Apr 17 2012, 12:26 PM) View Post

but how on earth can others compete with this.

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#60 Tixylix

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 23:35

Just out of interest - has the 'keyboard' section ever featured a keyboard instrument that wasn't the piano, such as an organ or harpsichord or electronic keyboard? And if not, why not just call it piano instead of keyboard?
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