Orchestrating Singapore's biggest violin contest

15) TEAM BEHIND THE SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL VIOLIN COMPETITION, among them, Associate Professor Qian Zhou, 47, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory head of strings, and Professor Bernard Lanskey, 55, conservatory director

Boasting a star-studded international jury and the heftiest top prize for a music competition here yet, the Singapore International Violin Competition placed the country on the classical music map.

Two of the main players behind the competition are the conservatory's head of strings Qian Zhou, who also chaired the nine- member jury, and its director Bernard Lanskey.

Businessman and violin collector Rin Kei Mei, who made a substantial donation to the competition, played a critical role in energising the competition too, says Professor Lanskey.

China-born Qian, herself an award-winning violinist, says: "We had discussed it many times over 10 years and the main idea was that, as Singapore is a finance hub, it should also be a hub for culture."

"Our wonderful symphony orchestra, conservatory and amazing concert halls, coupled with the country's multicultural experience, provide an attractive venue for bringing the very best talent."

The competition, which is open to violinists aged 30 and younger, received more than 145 applications from 27 countries, including Japan and Russia.

This was whittled down to a shortlist of 35 musicians who were flown to Singapore to perform in front of a judging panel of heavyweights including French violinist Pierre Amoyal, 66.

Taiwan's Tseng Yu-chien, 21, walked away with the top prize of $50,000, international performance opportunities with renowned international orchestras such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, a recording produced by classical music group Naxos and a three- year instrument loan from Mr Rin's collection of rare strings.

Prof Lanskey says that for him, the most wonderful thing to see was the level of Singaporean engagement as an audience.

"Our ambition is for the event to reach out across all communities and we aim to work more on that in the future," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'Orchestrating Singapore's biggest violin contest'. Subscribe