Jeunesses Musicales Foundation overhauls Do-Mi-Si-La-Do-Ré contest after public outcry

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The Jeunesses Musicales Canada Foundation has reorganized its Home Sweet Home (Do-Mi-Si-La-Do-Ré) Contest in response to criticism of a public voting system that apportioned voting weight according to the size of an individual donation.

According to the press release from this morning, the Competition will now award two categories of prizes: an Artistic Prize (chosen by a series of juries) and a public vote Participation Prize (See the full press release below). Voir la version française du communiqué de presse.

The competition attracted entries from more than 200 young composers by the deadline of May 19.

It also saw the withdrawal of at least two composers on the grounds that the system favoured contestants whose supporters – including family members and even the contestants themselves – were more willing or better able to pay for voting power.

“We denounce the lack of clarity from the organizers in the presentation of its structure [and]its discriminatory nature towards young artists from low-income families,” Alexandre David, one of the dissenting composers, said in a Facebook posting.

Open to Canadians and permanent residents under 30, the competition was established by the JMC Foundation as a gesture of support for musicians “in these difficult times.”

Entries were to be composed in a classical style for solo or chamber forces and include the notes C, E, B, A, C, D in sequence. These notes come close to forming the words “domicile adoré” (“home sweet home”) if rendered in French solfège syllables.

The prize package includes a first prize of $10,000, a second prize of $5,000, a third prize of $3,000 and seven awards of $1,000 for the remaining finalists. Winners will be chosen in a matter of weeks by a blue-ribbon jury including well-known conductors and music administrators from across the country.

Fifty percent of the score was to be determined by a panel of JMC judges. The other half was determined by public vote. All entries remain available for viewing as videos on the JMC website.

A minimum donation of five dollars was introduced as a modest buffer against unlimited voting. Nevertheless, a donor’s voting power remained theoretically unlimited because it increased according to the size of his or her donation. Each dollar, in effect, equalled one vote.

“What happened is that we started to have a number of donations that we didn’t expect,” said Richard Lupien, president of the JMC Foundation. “Some candidates started to drop out, thinking that they wouldn’t have enough people in their entourage to draw the votes necessary.”

While conceding that the system was flawed, Lupien maintained that the likelihood of an outright purchase of a finalist position was slim considering the input of the JMC selection committee. “It takes a combination of both,” he said. “The public has to like the work, and the judges too.”

Lupien added that while there was no limit in theory on the size of a donation, the average gift before the overhaul was $30 per contestant.

But according to Alexandre David, one of the composers who withdrew their entries in protest, the original system stipulated that only the 30 videos that received the most public votes would be presented for evaluation by the preselection jury. David was critical also of the design of the website, claiming that it gave the impression that donations went directly to contestants rather than a general fund for young artists.

A further problem – arguably shared by all “prix du public” awards – was the potential for nepotism. It was clear from the common surnames formerly posted on the competition website that family members were among those voting for contestants – and paying for the right to vote.

Critics also point to the near-impossibility of hearing 171 compositions before making an informed decision on a favourite.

At least the entries are short: The maximum length is three minutes. Videos were produced by the contestants involved videoconferencing techniques rather than in-person collaboration, in keeping with social distancing regulations.

Reporting by Adrian Rodriguez and Arthur Kaptainis.


Press release

DO MI SI LA DO RÉ (Home Sweet Home) CONTEST
Announcement: New prizes for participants

Montreal, May 27, 2020 – Sensitive to several comments and reflections from the participants concerning the analysis of the applications by the pre-selection jury as well as the public vote, the Foundation has decided to adjust the rules of the Do Mi Si La Do Ré Contest. As a non-profit organization and registered charity, the mission of the JM Canada Foundation is to support young up-and-coming musicians in their career development and believes in each and every one of you and truly wishes to support you artistically. The Foundation is therefore confident that the changes reflect the wishes expressed.

The changes

The Do Mi Si La Do Ré Contest will now include two perfectly distinct prizes. All selected videos will participate in each of the two categories: the Jury’s Artistic Award and the Participation Award awarded by popular vote.

Please find below a complete presentation of our two award categories:

THE ARTISTIC PRIZE: works will be judged by pre-selection juries only. All the videos currently online on our platform will be submitted to the 3 pre-selection juries. Each of the 3 juries will be composed of a minimum of 6 members. The distribution of candidates to the 3 juries will be random. Each member will evaluate the applications according to the following criteria:

Originality of the work – Precision of execution – Quality of interpretation – Accuracy – Pleasure in listening Integration of the theme Do Mi Si La Do Ré

  1. 1. Each of the three juries will hand in its selection of the top 10 candidates
  2. 2. The 30 successful candidates will be ranked according to their scores
  3. 3. The first 10 finalists will advance to the final round of the competition and will be heard by the Grand Jury

Each member of the 3 juries is invited to disclose any perceived conflict of interest. The candidate’s score will be weighted on those of the other jury members.

The grants awarded for the artistic prize will be as follows:

  • First Prize: $10,000
  • Second prize: $5,000
  • Third prize: $3,000
  • The remaining 7 finalists will each receive a $1,000 grant.

The pre-selection jury will be composed of musicians from the orchestras and organizations partnering in the competition, as well as administrators from the Canadian classical music community. The complete list will be available before the end of the public voting period.

It is important to remember that all grants under this component are offered by the JM Canada Foundation and through its major donors and partners. The current campaign on the Fundky platform is therefore unrelated to the grants that will be awarded as part of the Artistic Prize.

The 30 Musicians’ GrantThe funds raised during the Fundky platform voting campaign will be awarded to the 30 candidates who were selected by the 3 pre-selection juries during the second stage of the Competition.  The amount of these grants will be defined at the end of the voting campaign, which will end on 14 June 2020. Please note that we want to ensure a minimum amount of $500 for each of theses candidates.

THE PARTICIPATION PRIZE: Participation prizes will be awarded to the three candidates with the highest number of donors (1 donor = 1 vote).

The grants awarded for the Participation Award will be as follows:

  • First Prize: $3,000
  • Second prize: $2,000
  • Third prize: $1,000
  •  All surpluses raised through the fundraising campaign will be used to enhance prizes and bursaries. In fact, all the money raised will be paid to participants of the Do Mi Si La Do Ré Contest.

 

All donors will receive a communication in the next few days to inform them of the rule changes.

Compilations related to the Competition will be carried out under the supervision of an external accounting firm.

The JM Canada Foundation is confident that the Do Mi Si La Do Ré Competition, organized in an immense spirit of solidarity with young artists, is now in line with the expectations of the musicians it supports. The Foundation wishes good luck to all the candidates and is very happy with the scope of this initiative.

Jeunesses Musicales Canada Foundation

The JM Canada Foundation is a charitable organization that has been supporting the mission of JM Canada for over 35 years. As a partner, it supports their educational mission of dissemination by proudly contributing to the career development of young classically trained musicians and the production and dissemination of Young Audience concerts.

For all information about the competition, please visit our website: jmcanada.ca

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

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About Author

Arthur Kaptainis has been a classical music critic since 1986. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Musical Toronto. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto. Since 2019, Arthur is co-editor of La Scena Musicale.

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