VC INTERVIEW | Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, Carl Nielsen Worldwide Competitors President

(Photograph credit score: Lars Gundersen)


The 2022 Carl Nielsen Worldwide Competitors invitations younger violinists, clarinetists, and flutists to each compete within the competitors and take part in Espansiva!, a brand new in-person program designed to supply members an off-stage platform to create connections with different musicians and music trade consultants — together with The Violin Channel’s Founder & CEO, Geoffrey John Davies.

We not too long ago sat down with the Competitors President, violinist, and conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, to debate his personal expertise competing within the competitors, his position as President, and the objectives he has shifting ahead.


You had been the 1992 winner of the Carl Nielsen Competitors. What stands out in your thoughts as one thing particular within the lead-up or in the course of the competitors?

In my specific expertise of being within the Nielsen Competitors, I used to be extraordinarily younger, aged 16. It was my first massive worldwide competitors, so from that standpoint, it was a really massive deal.

I had, amongst different issues, simply grown a foot and a half within the previous yr, my arms had been longer, and all the pieces was totally different. I used to be very conscious that I didn’t really feel utterly comfy but on the instrument, so I knew that I nonetheless had a variety of growth to do.

In that vein, I suppose I used to be not able to make a profession straight away after successful — which is ok! That’s not at all times vital, and that is the message that we attempt to give to all the kids that come right here.

A contest is just a part of your journey. Truly, only a few issues in life are ultimate and determine the remainder of your life – that’s not the way it works. It’s a variety of smaller and greater occasions collectively that form your path.



Whenever you came upon you had gained at such a younger age, what was going by way of your thoughts? What alternatives got here after successful?

I used to be so completely satisfied, I used to be elated! Nevertheless, the humorous factor is that you simply don’t study almost as a lot from successful as you do if you don’t win. After all, I used to be ecstatic, it was nice, however I’ve had much less profitable occasions that I discovered extra from, sarcastically.

I used to be nonetheless very a lot in a scholar way of thinking. Successful the competitors helped lecturers grow to be conscious of who I used to be. It opened doorways in that manner, and it made sure issues a bit smoother. Being a prize-winner makes individuals’s ears perk up and helps with publicity.


Are you able to give us a bit of background in your position because the competitors’s president? What drew you again to the Nielsen Competitors?

I bear in mind when it was first proposed I stated “no, thanks very a lot!” However then I considered it for an hour or two and I believed, “oh, perhaps I’ll name again, there’s one thing there.” The factor that drew me to it was the opportunity of being a part of creating one thing totally different.

The title of being “The President of the Competitors” wasn’t the interesting half, however somewhat the chance to design a contest with which we might make a significant affect. At first, I considered what we might do for the winners, however then I believed, “wait, there are one other sixty-nine contestants there who aren’t going to win.” In addition they want to depart with one thing very priceless. That’s what we’re specializing in implementing this yr, and we’ll develop that program extra sooner or later.


Are you able to inform us about that program?

The concept is that we’ve right here not solely the seventy-two contestants throughout three devices, but in addition an unimaginable fountain of information, expertise, and generosity coming from the competitors’s jurors. They’re from all walks of musical life: we’ve terrific concertmasters, soloists, pedagogues, orchestral managers, inventive managers, PR individuals. We’ve an entire array of folks that share on this imaginative and prescient of wanting to provide one thing to the subsequent technology.

And what can we give? Recommendation, an ear, a shoulder…we will merely make the subsequent technology conscious of what’s coming at them on this musical world they’re about to enter into as adults. It is vitally totally different when you’re a scholar and you’re primarily concerned along with your scholar life, along with your classes, along with your tutorial progress, and with fulfilling these obligations.

However very quickly, these younger individuals are going to be dealing with the musical world and having to search out their place in it, and that’s the place we might like to be those who can put one thing priceless of their “backpack of life.” One thing that they’ll preserve with them, one thing that could be a fountain of recommendation and information that they’ll draw on for the remainder of their lives.


What’s going to the format of this system appear to be in a sensible sense?

This yr it was within the type of workshops and interactive talks. Not one of the facilitators significantly want to speak about ourselves, however we’re completely satisfied to make use of our previous for example for the scholars. We shine a light-weight on sure points which can be frequent to all of us, whether or not that be how we take care of stress, stress, or efficiency nerves.

We additionally have a look at extra sensible issues, like how college students ought to write a biography, or whether or not they want to stick with a instructor after they graduate. We’ve had all types of discussions to date, and great questions and interactions with the younger contestants that stayed on in Odense. This program shall be developed extra in future editions of the competitors.


Are you able to inform us a bit of about your imaginative and prescient for the Carl Nielsen competitors?

The imaginative and prescient of the competitors is not only to be a contest that sends off three winners ultimately, with hopefully wonderful careers. However somewhat that everybody who comes ought to have the chance to obtain one thing priceless to hold with them. We’ve an enormously attention-grabbing vary of individuals descending upon Odense who’re all sharing in that imaginative and prescient, this concept of giving again to the subsequent technology. They’re really beneficiant in the best way that they take care of younger individuals, particularly the individuals who don’t make it to the subsequent spherical.


What do you suppose are some new challenges that younger musicians need to face at this time, in contrast with the challenges you confronted if you had been younger?

Not solely is there the component of dwelling within the digital age — that’s clearly totally different from after I and most different members of the jury needed to make our manner — but in addition that we live in a post-pandemic time. We’re nonetheless dwelling in a musical world that should discover a new course, maybe.

I don’t suppose anybody expects that we’re simply going to return to precisely the best way it was earlier than the pandemic: I don’t suppose that’s how the world works. I don’t suppose it’s advisable, both, as a result of if you happen to’re not shifting ahead, you then’re shifting backward.


Conversely, what do you suppose are the challenges which have remained the identical for musicians? 

I believe a few of the constants fortunately stay. There are two phrases I’d like to spotlight right here. One is “high quality,” your high quality as a musician, and what you deliver to the musical world. That’s one thing that we’ll by no means cease attempting to get higher at. The opposite one is “relationships” or relationship-building, which has remained a relentless since earlier than the digital age. What actually issues is the significant relationships we forge — musically, professionally, and privately, all of which overlap usually in our world.

I believe if we preserve these two issues in thoughts, as constants in our trade, then I’m positive we’ll discover a technique to adapt to the brand new.


Has something stood out to you concerning the ongoing competitors this yr?

What has actually touched me is that just about everybody we’ve heard has had one thing particular to supply. All of the members of the jury felt that there’s a variety of actually unique expertise there, unique voices from the subsequent technology.

That may be very comforting as a result of there are some issues we can not study, as we all know. Within the phrases of the nice Arthur Rubinstein, “first you should be born with expertise.” That’s one thing which is out of everybody’s management, however I can inform you that we’ve had a variety of very gifted individuals right here.


Audiences can watch the Semi-Last and Last Rounds of the Carl Nielsen Competitors from April 6-10 LIVE right here on The Violin Channel. 



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