The (Virtual) Violin Olympics

Richmond hosts the first-ever online Menuhin Competition.

Oak Hill violinist, 16-year-old Kayleigh Kim. Photo courtesy the Kim family.

The best young violinists in the world were supposed to come to Richmond last May for the Menuhin Competition, an acclaimed program known for the high level of playing among participants and for its festive, nurturing, and collegial environment.

“When we postponed the event last March [2020],” said Gordon Back, artistic director of the Menuhin Competition, in a statement, “we never imagined that we wouldn’t be able to bring the competition to Richmond a year later. We made the difficult decision to hold the competition virtually because the COVID-19 pandemic would have made it impossible for us all to travel to Richmond from so many different parts of the world.”

The 2021 Menuhin Competition will take place online May 14-23, co-hosted by the City of Richmond, Richmond Symphony, University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, and VPM, Virginia’s home for public media. 

During the competition, the field of 43 will be winnowed to the nine top performers in two age brackets. An Oak Hill violinist, 16-year-old Kayleigh Kim, will represent the Commonwealth by competing with the juniors, while older students compete as seniors; one first-place winner will be chosen from each group.

The Menuhin Competition is known as a creative space that provides a nurturing and immersive environment for its participants, and it will be no different this time around. “We are determined to celebrate these incredibly talented young people and to provide as much of the ‘Menuhin experience’ for them as we possibly can. Our wonderful partners in Richmond and the London team are working together to create a very special virtual event this May. We are all passionately committed to keeping the spirit of the Competition alive in this exciting new format,” said Back.

In addition to the competition rounds, the event will include performances from guest artists and educational and community activities including virtual masterclasses, panel discussions, interactive music curriculum for schools, an “Adopt a Performer” program for local students, and a recital and art show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

“The City of Richmond, Virginia, is proud to host this year’s prestigious Menuhin Competition in its first ever virtual version,” said Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney in a statement. “We look forward to thousands of viewers from around the world joining us online and in spirit to celebrate extraordinary violin performances by talented American and international musicians and guest artists.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue. All events were accurate at publication but may change without notice. 

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