This exhausting and wonderful week wrapped up at the University of New Mexico's Keller Hall where Vicki Powell, Elias Goldstein and Ayane Kozasa played with the New Mexico Chamber Orchestra in the final round of the competition. The competitors played a classical concerto of their choice, either Hoffmeister or Stamitz. After three absolutely brilliant and refined performances, an awards ceremony was held. Third place was announced: Vicki Powell, a young artist of the highest degree. There was a tangible disappointment in the audience as Goldstein received second place; his master of the viola and absolutely sincere musicality guaranteed his standing as a first place winner for many people. For me, I could not be more happy and honored to announce that Ayane Kozasa is new First Prize Winner of the 2011 Primrose International Viola Competition. My most heartfelt congratulations go out to Ayane and to the other finalists for their massive achievement.
Other awards were handed out at the ceremony, including the Askim award, presented to the competitor who performed "Inner Voices" at the highest level, two Bach awards, a 20th Century concerto award, a Mozart award, the Primrose Prize for the best performance of a Primrose transcription, six Robertson Prizes, a Sonata award, and the Director's award. Honorable Mentions were awarded to those performers who the judges truly wished could have played in finals.
Kozasa stayed on stage through a tearful congratulations from the judges to try out the Jardon Rico viola she had just been awarded. I met up with her and asked her what was going through her mind.
"Honestly, it's just been such a joy to play the full recital and with the orchestra. I've been so grateful for this opportunity."
The gracefulness she showed is truly indicative of the vibe of the entire festival. Everyone has been so sincere and so warm here, not at all indicative of the absolutely intense level of competition.
"I didn't think about first place, second place, third place while I was playing," Kozasa said. "I think that mindset worked out for me. I had so much fun at this competition, winning is just the icing on the cake."
For most people, this competition has been seen as an absolutely amazing experience and an incredibly rewarding opportunity. While there was definitely a good amount of disappointment, bitterness and anger during the week, the degree of love and inspiration and talent and friendship really won out. I feel incredibly lucky to be a musician, surrounded by these kinds of people and this amount of passion.
I'm off to go celebrate and unwind with these lovely people from all over the word, and I cannot describe how lucky I feel to have met them all.
Please look for my upcoming article in the print edition of Strings Magazine: an in-depth reflection on Kozasa, the nature of the Primrose Competition and a discussion of what it really means to be a competition winner.