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A competitor’s reflection on the 2013 Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition | Laura Seay

I have known about the Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition and Festival for years – it is known as one of the most prestigious competitions and is respected throughout the musical community.

I decided to enter the competition as a personal project providing me with a goal to work towards over this school year.

My experience on the Isle of Man, surrounded by some of the most promising violists, exceeded all expectations and hopes.  I met so many musicians, audience members, host families, organizers at the Erin Arts Center – many whom I hope to call friends for the rest of my life.  This environment of collaboration and camaraderie was certainly due to the efforts of Dr John Bethell, Gloria Balakrishna and all of the volunteers and helpers who organize the event.  My hope is that they realize what a wonderful and nurturing environment they’ve helped to create.

In discussion with a fellow competitor the night before the first round, we both agreed that one of the most beneficial parts of participating in the competition had already occurred before it even started – the hours and hours that we had all spent preparing. I think this made all of us better musicians, more adept violists and more disciplined artists.  It was a pleasant surprise to hear the vast array of repertoire selected by jury members, which they performed in the evening recitals.

I left the Lionel Tertis Competiton armed with multiple years worth of repertoire that I am eager to play.  Particularly interesting to me were the selections by English composers that are infrequently played in the US – were it not for Tertis I would never have known of many of these composers and now there are 28 International violists returning home and taking the music of England with them.  What a thrill it is to be a part of this!

Unfortunately there was not a class, or formal discussion about the Peter Maxwell Davies Six Sorano Variants that was commissioned to be played by all contestants.  With a piece as difficult and containing so many passages that needed adjustments by the player, it was a shame that there was not more of a formal discussion – but that didn’t stop us!  There was many a late night discussion amongst the participants, pulling out violas over beers, passing around the instrument and each player demonstrating personal strategies for dealing with the obstacles in this piece.  The level of musicianship amongst the competitors was incredibly high – I left feeling sad that I couldn’t live in this little bubble forever, but on the other hand I left feeling inspired, motivated and grateful to have been included in such a wonderful opportunity.  The spirit of music making and desire for the world of viola to evolve was very much alive and well on the Isle of Man!