The 1st Audite International Conducting Competition took place on 9-15 July 2017 in Radom, Poland. We believe this was a unique event in competition history for it was organised on the basis of our belief that the effectiveness of a conductor’s work can be judged through listening alone – and that eliminating the possibility for the jury to know the identity of the conductors they are judging is the most effective way to eliminate any possible bias or prejudice.
Devised by Conductors’ Academy Directors Jonathan Brett and Maciej Żółtowski, the competition aimed not only to create an unbiased assessment process but also to set challenges which would mean reaching the final would require evident skills. More than this, a key objective was educational: to encourage all participants to develop their technique by showing that, given essentially the same opportunity, conductors with the right technical skills can produce objectively better results. The organisers believe that this is of particular importance in the modern world, where technical performance standards are at unprecedented levels yet the resources available to artistic organisations everywhere are under increasing pressure.
For the first, second rounds and semi-final, all judging was undertaken from behind a screen on the basis of sound alone. In order that the jury could not know who was conducting at any time, the competition was organised so that candidates appeared in random order and were not allowed to speak on stage. Only after the results of each round were decided did the jury find out the identity of those who had passed.
The screened rounds were arranged to present a series of increasingly difficult challenges – covering a varied range of repertoire and including an accompaniment, all of which had to be overcome through working with gesture alone, thus proving real conducting skill. Those who passed these hurdles finally won the right to speak to the orchestra in the final round, at which finally the jury was allowed to see as well as to hear both the rehearsal and the final performance.
Jonathan Brett, Chairman of the Jury said:
“After four long days judging only sound, when I finally saw the finalists conducting it made me acutely aware of the relative pollution of the purity of judgement if the eyes are allowed to be involved: when I see someone approach a problem in a way I cannot imagine can be effective, it is simply impossible for my ears – and consequent judgement – not to be affected. To me this explains a lot of the issues of bias which tend to surround more traditionally organised music competitions of every kind. My conclusion is that, whilst the details might be tweaked, in principle the concept is right: this is a really good way to manage a competition.”