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Young Violinists Announced For The Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020

Sumina Studer performing at the 2018 Menuhin Competition in Geneva.
Sumina Studer performing at the 2018 Menuhin Competition in Geneva. (Photo: Olivier Miche Photography, Menuhin Competition Geneva 2018.)

Forty-four finalists from around the globe were announced Wednesday by The Menuhin Competition Trust and the Richmond Symphony. They’ll be participating in the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020, which is set to take place this May. It’s the second time in the over thirty year history for the event to land in a U.S. city. Austin, Texas held the event in 2014. 

Some of the musicians chosen to compete are natives of China, Japan, Spain, Ukraine, Poland and Australia. Thirteen U.S. states are represented, with performers coming from South Dakota, Texas, California and Virginia.  

Fifteen year old violinist Kayleigh Kim is from Oak Hill, Virginiain Fairfax County. She said competing in the Menuhin Competition has always been a dream of hers.

“I was born here in Virginia and I’ve lived her all my life. So I’m very excited to be competing in not just my home country but my home state as well,” she said.

Competing for Kim should be nothing new. She just won first place at the Richmond Symphony League’s Concerto Competition by performing the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. That competition took place earlier this month at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Singleton Center. Part of this recognition includes a performance with the Richmond Symphony on January 25th.

Founded in 1983 by violinist Yehudi Menuhin, the international competition is open to musicians under the age of 22 and takes place every two years. The last event was held in Geneva in 2018. 

Menuhin started off as a child prodigy but later became world-renowned not only for his playing but for his devotion to teaching young violinists from all over the world. The competition aims to create connections across borders and expose the larger community to classical music. 

The 11 day event will take place across Richmond, with performances at VCU, the University of Richmond and Dominion Energy Center, as well as mini-concerts by competitors at schools all around the region. 

The Richmond Symphony is a co-host of the event. Executive Director David Fisk said events go beyond the competition and include educational outreach with local students. 

“For us it’s a chance to sort of combine all the Richmond Symphony tries to make happen and bringing world class music to Richmond but also really being deeply committed to provide opportunities for youth in our hometown,” he said. 

VPM is also a co-sponsor and is providing livestream and on-air coverage of events and performances.

Here’s how the event breaks down. 

The 44 musicians are divided into Junior (age 15 and under) and Senior (age 21 and under) groups. Those groups each have 22 competitors. The first round of competition for juniors takes place during the first two days of events, followed by the seniors. These first rounds will take place at the University of Richmond and all are free and open to the public. 

Round two follows the same sequence but the venue is changed to Virginia Commonwealth University. From these, the field narrows down to five juniors and four seniors. Then the junior finalists perform on May 22, followed by the seniors performing on May 23. After each of these performances, two finalists will emerge. These events require ticket purchases.

Five junior finalists will perform a new commission for violin and string orchestra written by Mason Bates. Bates, who is originally from Richmond, is a Grammy-award winning composer who is also an artist in residence at the Kennedy Center. Four senior finalists will be playing a Mark O'Connor composition. O’Connor is an American violinist who has won three Grammys, seven CMA awards as well as several national fiddle, guitar and mandolin champion titles. 


First prize for the senior winner of the Menuhin is $20,000 plus a two-year loan of a golden period Stradivarius. The first place junior wins $10,000, plus a two-year loan of a classic, Italian-made violin. Second place winners are also loaned rare violins.

The money and violin loans can help catapult the musicians’ careers. Past winners, including Chad Hoopes, Stephen Waarts and Ray Chen have gone onto successful careers. 

Chen, who won Menuhin in 2008, performed with the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra when he was eight years old and played during the opening ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan. Yehudi Menuhin had the same honor in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. 

David Fisk said he hopes the event can be inspiring for young and old alike. 

“I think we're going to have many, many memorable moments created that will touch people very deeply. And in some cases, maybe even change a student's life that makes them want to go off and and and learn and study and and make the violin their calling,” he said.

The event runs from May 14 -24th. 

Correction: The original version of this story included the name “2020 Menuhin Violin Competition.“ The official name is Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020.” We also clarified that Junior finalists will be performing the new commission by Mason Bates, and added details that  senior finalists will be performing a Mark O’Connor composition.




Ian M. Stewart previously was the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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